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Charming update of classic fairytale


Youngsters recently made up the majority of the “Princess and the Pea” audience, now at Marriott Theatre. But their parents and grandparents were also in for a treat.

Although the show, a new musical, is part of Marriott’s series geared to the young set with productions a mere hour long, followed by a Q and A, the cast is made-up of in-demand Chicago actors.

Audiences familiar with the beloved Hans Christian Andersen Tale will still find the basic theme of the girl who will wed the prince not being able to sleep on an extra high pile of mattresses because of a tiny pea.

However, in this new musical, the girl is Ruth played by Marielle Nada Issa (How To Defend Yourself, Victory Gardens Theater), daughter of the widowed woodsman, Papa. He is portrayed with warmth by Mark David Kaplan (frequent Marriott actor and a Jeff Award winner for Les Misérables, Ragtime and Forbidden Broadway). Kaplan is also Biff, a TV reality-show announcer.

Dressed in overalls, Ruth doesn’t look like princess material. She loves to read and sleep. Upon turning 18, her father sends her out into the world “To write her own story.”

Cast of the Princess and the Pea at Marriott Theatre. (photo courtesy of Marriott Theatre)

Queen Evermean, interpreted by Jenna Coker-Jones (Mercury and Paramount Theatres) similar to a Disney-styled scheming character has someone else in mind for her son, Prince Wellington who just turned 18. The queen has rigged the Princess Test, a reality game show, so her candidate can win.

The Queen’s choice, Biffy, a “bimbo” type girl whose father is very wealthy, is played by Allison Sill (frequent Marriott actor, Grease, Oliver!.

But Prince Wellington, endearingly portrayed by Trevor Vanderzee (Gaston in Beauty and the Beast at The Paramount Theatre), wants to choose his own bride. He loves to write and has been writing his own story.

He is assisted in his escape from the palace to find adventure and true love by Chester the Jester, Ian Paul Custer (Jeff Award winning Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story).

Ruth and the Prince bump into each other in the Royal Woods where she saves him during a storm and manages to get him back to the palace.

The rest is Hans Christian Andersen history but the book and lyrics are by Rick Boynton with music by Marc Robin. Additional lyrics are by Robin and Curt Dale Clark.

Directed and choreographed by Aaron Thielen with music direction by Patti Garwood, the show is a delightful, updated romp through a classic fairytale whose moral for youngsters now, is “to write your own story.”