Publication Date: Friday, September 03, 2004
A royal spectacular
A royal spectacular
(September 03, 2004) 'Princess' is a musical success
By Julie O'Shea
Sparkling sets, gorgeous costumes, flashy dance moves. "A Little Princess" arrived at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts last week in spectacular fashion.
The new TheatreWorks musical, adapted from Frances Hodgson Burnett's novel for children, hopes to land on Broadway after it wraps its four-week world premiere run on the Peninsula.
With a slew of theater veterans at the helm, including director Susan H. Schulman (Broadway's "The Secret Garden"), composer Andrew Lippa ("The Wild Party") and lyricist Brian Crawley ("Violet"), this "Princess" seems off to a good start.
It has a lot going for it, from a prestigious creative team to its exceptional child star, Mackenzie Mauzy, who takes on the role of orphaned Sara Crewe with cool ease.
Mauzy, 15, sings with a passion and intensity that far exceeds her age. She tackles some of the show's best numbers ("Live Out Loud," "Soldier On") with such flare, she nearly brings the house down.
In addition, Crawley and Lippa give us some lovely numbers --"Soon, My Love," "Timbuktu" and "Captain Crewe." Tony-award winning Heidi Ettinger's breezy London sets are impressive. And little Lizzi Jones as Lottie, the British boarding school's youngest charge, is utterly delightful.
The riches-to-rags story of a little girl sent to live in a boarding school while her father explores Timbuktu and is subsequently reported dead will continue to enchant children and adults alike.
However, this revamped version of "Princess," which is set in West Africa instead of India (as it is in the book), could use some tailoring.
While Crawley provides us with occasional humor, he fails to gives his characters emotional roots. Although each has a distinct personality, we never see these people connect on a deeper level.
Mauzy and Will Chase as Captain Crewe have some wonderful father-daughter moments together, most notably when they are saying goodbye at the start of the show. And it is during exchanges like this that the musical soars.
There should have been more of these moments in the two-and-a-half hour show. Instead, choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler fills up the space with elaborately staged dance sequences that are reminiscent of the musical "The Lion King."
For the most part, Crawley remains true to the 1905 Burnett classic except for the ending, which seems rushed and a little muddled. It's nice that things don't end gloomily for Sara Crewe, but there is something unsatisfying with the way Crawley decides to leave us.
Regardless of these bumps, TheatreWorks' latest production still takes us on an incredible journey.
There is no telling when or if this "Princess" will ever see Broadway. The fact that it's here now is a special treat and one not to be missed.
E-mail Julie O'Shea at firstname.lastname@example.org
What: TheatreWorks presents "A Little Princess," a new musical by Brian Crawley and Andrew Lippa, based on the book by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Where: Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro St.
When: Wednesdays through Fridays 8 p.m. Saturdays at 8 p.m. with additional 2 p.m. performances Sept. 4 and 18; Sundays at 2 p.m. with additional 7 p.m. performance Aug. 29; Aug. 31 and Sept. 7 at 7:30 p.m.; 7 p.m. only for Sept. 12 "Visual Voice" audio-described performances are available Sept. 17-18 at 8 p.m. and Sept. 19 at 2 p.m.; Closes Sept. 19.
Call: 903-6000 or visit theatreworks.org
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