When you see Sammi Deutsch on stage at the Walnut Street Theatre, she’ll appear thinner than a piece of matzah.
But no need for concern — she is simply embodying Stanley Lambchop, the title role in the theater’s kids’ production of The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley Jr., which runs through April 14.
It’s hard enough singing, dancing and acting, but Deutsch does it all while wearing a full-length flat suit for most of the show — oh, and she’s only 15.
On top of that, the young actress balances the theater with school and keeping Pesach as shows continue through the week.
She’s no stranger to the Walnut, performing since she was 10 years old in productions like A Christmas Carol, Honk! Jr., and SkippyJon Jones.
This musical follows 10-year-old Stanley, who lives a rather average life until one day he makes a wish on falling star. The next day, he wakes up flat — literally flat, like a piece of cardboard.
As a flat person, he realizes he’s able to travel the world in an envelope, discovering Los Angeles, Paris and Hawaii in the process, but eventually chooses to come home and be with his family.
“He wants to share what he did with his family,” Deutsch added. “The story is really about being OK with who you are. There’s a big message of spreading acceptance, not just in what Stanley does but in how other people see him, and the idea that you can be different and still do incredible things.”
While playing flat Stanley, Deutsch wears a flat suit made of a foam board molded to the shape of her body.
“The hardest part is not being able to turn around at all,” she laughed. “I have to face the audience flat on — no pun intended.”
She was initially surprised to hear she received the part playing a 10-year-old boy, but the show for children becomes more relatable when they see another kid on stage, she said, regardless of gender.
Deutsch is also the youngest in the cast; the rest are college grads and older.
“To get to watch Stanley interact with all of these adults” — cast and characters included — “and knowing Stanley is a child, it really entices all of the other children in the audience, and they light up when they see a fellow child on stage with them.”
Deutsch is also the only Jewish cast member, so she’s had the opportunity to introduce them to certain customs and holidays, like Passover.
“I always like to try and connect what I’m doing — even when I did Christmas Carol, I like to make sure that I’m connecting to it somehow,” she noted.
She said Stanley is a great show to bring the kids to during Passover because Jews are bonded by the fact that they are different from most of the U.S. population, and Stanley goes through a similar challenge.
“Even though your peers may not understand who you are,” she elaborated, “and what your Judaism means, it actually brings you closer together to have something different about you.”
Deutsch usually attends Passover seder with her family at Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel, but it fell on the same night she was to star in three back-to-back shows.
So, she got creative.
This week, she brought matzah and a haggadah backstage and gave a brief explanation of their significance to her cast.
In between stage time, she FaceTimed her parents at the KI seder for a taste of home. (They stopped by the theater before her third show for a mini matzah snack, too.)
“I also really enjoy having seder at the theater,” she said. She’s done the same for Chanukah as well, and her castmates took to her celebrations, eager to listen and show their support — especially when Deutsch brings in latkes or her homemade matzah toffee brittle. “The best part about Pesach in some ways is not just about prayer and going to services. A lot of it is about the culture.”
Her birthday, April 12, often falls on Passover, too, but she’s content sharing a flourless chocolate cake at the theater.
Deutsch hopes kids enjoy the show, and she’s looking forward to seeing responses from the crowd.
“Children are just always laughing and cheering and clapping and yelling out in excitement when they feel something and connect with something, so I really do hope they walk out of the theater just pleased,” she said, in addition to grasping the overall message of acceptance in the show.
When she’s not on stage, Deutsch is a sophomore at Germantown Friends School.
She will take the stage a few more times near the end of Passover, but she said the hardest part is going back to school and watching her non-Jewish peers munch on bread-centric meals.
“The Walnut is really great about working around my schedule,” she said, “but it involves doing homework after a show or before I have to get into wig. I’m usually working on an essay at lunch break during rehearsal. But it is obviously worth it. If I didn’t do theater, I don’t know how I would exist.”