Sunday, May 28, 2017
Philadelphia Theatre review: The Light Princess
In a magical kingdom, an aggrieved witch/aunt bestows upon a newborn princess the curse of no gravity. Both literally (she floats away if not tethered) and metaphorically: She takes nothing serious and it gets annoying after a while, especially all the fart sounds.
This is what's going on in the upstairs, intimate theater at the Arden. The show is a slightly more serious musical for children, especially if they had seen the charming "A Year with Frog and Toad," at the Arden just a few months earlier.
I brought my 9-year-old, and I thought he was too mature for the first act, but during the second act when a character decides to sacrifice his life for the good of the kingdom, I was thinking he wasn't mature enough. The second act does take a serious shift and a lot of heinies of 6 and 7 year olds got squirmy.
You might think of "Into the Woods," another fairy tale with a light first act and a consequence-laden second act.
Composer Alex Bechtel plays the handsome prince, and wicked aunt, and plays the piano. His prince is textbook, but his witch channels Dame Edna via Charles Nelson Reilly. Kinda funny but kinda scary, too.
Brett Ashley Robinson has a tough job making a girl without empathy a sympathetic character. Her obnoxious princess is reminiscent of Gildna Radnor's Lisa Loobner. She can also flip the switch to be the nice princess (whenever she's in the water for reasons I wasn't sure of), and she's a whole new, more likable character.
Lyricist, Philly stage veteran Tony Lawton plays narrator and some smaller fill-in parts. A funny running gag is when the king (Rob Tucker) keeps asking him who he's talking to.
Tucker and the queen Emily Gardner Xu Hall, play the loving parents trying to figure out what to do with their special child, while making up the rest of the orchestra. Between the two of of them they played piano, viola, guitar and in the q-and-a session after the show, they admitted to learning the accordion for this production.
The show has been extended through June 4, and really, the Arden can do no wrong. So if you have a child ready to make the next step from "Frog and Toad," this is your chance.