Busy With Important Things; or, Leggings Are Not Pants: THE LITTLE PRINCE

Photo by Andrew Brilliant / Brilliant Pictures

Photo by Andrew Brilliant / Brilliant Pictures

Presented by the New Repertory Theatre
Adapted from the book by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Book and lyrics by John Scoullar
Music by Rick Cummins
Directed by Ilyse Robbins
Musical Direction by Todd C. Gordon

Nov. 22 – Dec. 21, 2014
Charles Mosesian Theatre
Watertown, MA
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Review by Kitty Drexel

(Watertown, MA) The novella The Little Prince is part memoir, part analogy for a grown man’s relationship with his inner child. Scoullar and Cummins adapted Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s most famous work into a parent-friendly children’s science fiction musical. It has the subject matter to entertain kids and the emotional complexity to interest adults. This is a show heavy with metaphor and analogy.

As in the French classic, The Aviator (Nick Sulfaro) has crash landed in the Sahara desert and meets the Little Prince (Wil Moser), an intergalactic traveler. As the Prince tells the Aviator of his life and travels, the Aviator is slowly but surely charmed by him. They share some adventures and the Prince returns home to his asteroid. The Aviator’s plan is magically fixed. They are happier for having known each other.

Sulfaro is charming as the Aviator. Moser has the voice of an angel but his vocal lines are fragmented and could use the same motivation so apparent in his spoken lines.  Andrew Barbato (Fox/all other supporting roles) blows them both out of the water. Barbato is a cornucopia of acting versatility. He has more energy is than all three of his co-actors combined. He was a wonder to watch. Alas, his performance of Fox is slighted by his obvious discomfort in his costume. Leggings aren’t pants.

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Photo by Andrew Brilliant / Brilliant Pictures. These leggings? Not. Pants.

Women are not presented positively in this musical. Rose and Snake (both played by Laura Jo Trexler) are the only female characters. They are analogies for de Saint-Exupéry’s limited understanding of women and lack any complexity. De Saint-Exupéry decided to summarize the mysteries of women in the least objective way possible. Rose is conceited, superficial and selfish. Snake is violent and dangerous.

Despite the scripted limitations of her roles, Trexler performs admirably. She gives Rose a fragile vulnerability reminiscent of Amy Adams’ Giselle in the movie Enchanted. She has not taken well to the snake-like choreography but otherwise her characterizations for both Snake and Rose are spot on.

The set design by Matthew Lazure is immediately arresting. It is a steampunk-lite dreamscape of compasses and gauges, stars and sky. Swathed in blues and golds, it’s beautiful to behold.

There are no people of color in this production. Any of the roles would be suitable for any person of any race.

There are several lovely songs worth learning and performing for interested performers. The Aviator’s songs “I Fly” and “Some Otherwhere” have beautiful melodies and interesting lyrics. Any of the short pieces sung by the Men of the Planets could be useful for auditions. Rose’s song “I Love You Goodbye” is operatic in length and depth.

New Rep’s The Little Prince is an excellent opportunity to introduce a classic novella to a younger generation with the caveat that the more difficult themes will need some explaining to tiny tots. This production is well-acted (sappy children’s theatre moments of scene chewing and raw energy are kept to a minimum) and exceedingly well sung. Although the sound system had a tendency of muffling the actors rather than revealing their voices, the cast managed quite well. Some scenes lacked the momentum for proper integration into the larger arc of the show but the production did not suffer for it. It’s a fun musical of breadth and depth for kids or kids disguised as adults.

 

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