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A Little Princess

a Musical
by Andrew Lippa (music) and Brian Crawley (book and lyrics)

COMPANY : Theatrical Outfit [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Balzer Theatre @ Herren's [WEBSITE]
ID# 4820

SHOWING : December 03, 2015 - December 27, 2015



Sara Crewe, the plucky daughter of a Victorian explorer, grew up among the music and magic of the African bush. But when she gets shipped away to an English boarding school, she must summon the courage to face industrial London and a cantankerous headmistress. When disaster strikes, only her imagination and faith in herself can help her through. Frances Hodgsen Burnett’s classic book has been staged and lavishly set to music by Broadway composer Andrew Lippa in this sophisticated retelling. Experience the magic of story-telling and a lush, textured soundtrack that hops across continents — and hearts — with the speed of a steam engine and the determination of a true princess. Starring Broadway actress and Atlanta native Emerson Steele, "A Little Princess" delivers something to cherish from the youngest dreamers to explorers of all ages.

Director Mira Hirsch
Ensemble Kandice Arrington
Miss Minchin Christy Baggett
Ensemble Mary Nye Bennett
Ensemble Jared Brodie
Miss Amelia Molly Coyne
Ensemble Tina Fears
Aljana Jeanette Illidge
Ensemble Sterling McClary
Ensemble Matt McCubbin
Captain Crewe Bryant Smith
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Eine Kleine Prinzessin
by playgoer
Tuesday, December 15, 2015
Bah, humbug, Emerson Steele! Her performance in the leading role of Sarah Crewe in "A Little Princess" has been widely lauded, but I didn’t see it. She had jetted off to do a New York concert at the performance I attended. Mary Caroline Owens took on the role of Sarah Crewe and did a perfectly fine job, thank you very much.

Theatrical Outfit has created a compelling production of this family-friendly musical. Although it contains a song about approaching Christmas and features the holiday in the second half of the second act, this is hardly your standard end-of-year fare. It’s a musical for all seasons that happened to land in the December slot at Theatrical Outfit.

In terms of design, the production isn’t particularly handsome. There are a couple of Palladian windows stage right, above a nice fireplace, but stage left features a squalid attic room, and the two sides of the stage are joined by a set of arches in front of a brick wall. Above the arches there is a painting that looked to me like part of the background from Edvard Munch’s "The Scream." It was lit differently for different scenes, so I guess it was intended to convey some sense of setting, but it didn’t do a very good job of it. I give higher marks to Chris Crawford’s lighting design than to Jon Nooner’s set design, and even higher marks to Elizabeth Rasmusson’s varied period costumes, which are not particularly enhanced by Paula Renee’s wig designs. Maclare Park’s props are the equal of the costumes.

Choreography, by Ricardo Aponte, is quite effective, especially in the African segments. The dancing adds excitement that the synth-sounding brass of the music tracks lacks. The tracks are cleverly combined with live strings and percussion to give a lush sound much of the time. Musical direction by Gregory Van Sudmeier makes all the songs sound good, but sound design (uncredited) doesn’t always allow lyrics to be clearly understood. Director Mira Hirsch’s blocking exacerbates this problem by having actors oftentimes face away from large portions of the audience and by creating stage pictures that work only for the center section of the audience.

The performances are what sell this production, and they’re all fine, from largest to smallest role. Particular standouts, to my mind, are Brenna McConnell, as winsome, downtrodden Becky; Allison Gann as eager-to-please Lottie; and Christy Baggett, as wicked Miss Minchin. Vocally, excellent singing is also heard from Molly Coyne, Jeanette Illidge, and Bryant Smith. There’s not a clunker in the cast. All the younger members of the cast are excellent in terms of their skills, but they can’t always be heard distinctly (not that the sound amplification deficiencies are limited to the younger cast members).

As for Mary Caroline Owens, she performed like a pro. There was no indication of hesitancy or unfamiliarity with the score or script at any point in her performance. She was Sarah Crewe, plain and simple. And that’s what the show revolves around. Perhaps it’s a tad maudlin of a tale, replacing the Yorkshire/India charm of "The Secret Garden" a bit too consciously with London/Africa settings, but the overall show works. As an alternative to more unabashedly seasonal offerings, it’s a winner. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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