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Hans Christian Andersen’s ‘The Princess and the Pea’ Gets Modern Makeover at The Marriott

CHICAGO – Merging old-fashioned chivalry with modern-day TV screens, The Marriott Theatre for Young Audiences is currently staging a smile-inducing, family friendly reimagining of Hans Christian Andersen’s beloved fairy tale “The Princess and the Pea”.

An imaginative morality tale that celebrates true love and staying true to yourself, this one-hour show tailored to kids inspires audiences of all ages to ask one very important question: Is love forced or earned?

Joined by musical director Ryan T. Nelson, Scott Weinstein makes his directorial debut at The Marriott Theatre with a version of “The Princess and the Pea” that is propelled by The Princess Test. Much like the grand ball thrown by the prince in Cinderella to find his wife based on love rather than royalty, here The Princess Test is designed by Prince Wellington’s (Jeff Award winner Alex Goodrich) evil Queen Evermean (Jeff Award winner Susan Moniz) to find his perfect princess.

Problems ensue, though, when Queen Evermean unfairly picks the beautiful blonde airhead Buffy (Samantha Pauly) who the prince does not vibe. Instead, our nerdy prince loves to write and longs for a woman more of his own literary ilk. Lusting for love rather than a royal fit, the prince bumps into a common girl named Ruth (Jeff Award nominee Dara Cameron) in the woods.

Ruth loves nothing more than reading her books and her Papa (Don Forston), but soon finds herself awkwardly falling for the prince. The prince asserts himself to his domineering queen to thrust Ruth into The Princess Test even though royal blood doesn’t course through her veins. The short, three-question test combines intellect with beauty and grace to determine a glass-slipper fit for Prince Wellington.

... kids who see the story acted out for the first time or experience it after having read it will enjoy The Marriott’s TV show creativity. Cleverly using TV screens to hold your attention through scene changes, the TV screens also give the typically non-techie story a modern game show-like feel. The play is entertainingly presented as a television show, and fortunately or unfortunately, the format is a language that modern-day kids speak.

The show runs like a well-oiled machine and is devoid of lighting, sound and acting snafus. Every seat in the circular house offers an easily visible location because The Marriott Theatre’s stage is in the center. Actors are chipper, high energy, overly expressive and campy just as they should be for this demographic, but the content caters specifically to kids. Usually a family-friendly show of this nature disguises some adult-themed humor that flies safely over the heads of kids, but children come first here.