Back to show

​Highly Recommended! 'The Princess and the Pea'

Highly Recommended 


Theater for young audiences! That is the name that Marriott Theatre has chosen for its “children’s Theater Program” and I for one like it. These are shows that have stories most children are familiar with but now they get to see it live, on a stage with music. In addition to having a wonderful hour of fun, they are in many ways being trained to enjoy live theater. They learn to be quiet, unwrap their candy, turn off their I-whatever? and of course to be neighborly and respect those who are sitting around them. This will be important in adulthood. I wish that more theater audiences has had this training decades ago.

Now, on to the show! Many of us are familiar with the Hans Christian Andersen tale, “The Princess and the Pea”, a wonderful story about true love and that being a true princess isn’t really about royalty or breeding. It is about the inner person and their true self. The story has been told by many with different adaptations. The big musical version is “Once Upon A Mattress” where Carol Burnett showed her great comic timing off. In fact, late last year, my Milwaukee writer, Amy reviewed a production of this in Milwaukee.

In the version/adaptation on the Marriott Stage with a book by Rick Boynton who also did some of the lyrics and music by Marc Robin ( who is a noted director as well) and directed by Aaron Thelan. There are also additional lyrics by Curt Dale Clark and Robin. Marriott regulars may recognize all of these names as the people who have made this theater the marvelous entertainment spot that it is. By the way, another familiar name, Patti Garwood, is the musical director. This is an unusual production as it is probably the smallest cast ever in a show at Marriott- main stage or childrens!

Six highly talented actors bring this 65 minute musical tale to life. The story is about a young Prince, Prince Wellington (Trevor Vanderzee) who is about to become an adult. His mother, Queen Evermean ( an incredible performance by Jenna Coker-Jones, who truly plays well to the adults in the house) wants only a true Princess and says that love is not even part of the equation. A great test is running throughout the kingdom ( we never see the myriads of young women) and we witness the test of Buffy ( Allison Sill who also plays an onscreen character, Cumula) who has the credentials but is the very typical “dumb blonde”.

In the Kingdom, or should I say, the far reaches of the Kingdom, there is a young lady named Ruth ( deftly handled by Marielle Nada Issa) who is also celebrating her birthday and as her “Papa” ( the always reliable Mark David Kaplan, who also plays “Biff”), tells her “find your own life” she ventures off towards the Royal Forest to read. Meanwhile, Prince Wellington with the aid of his Jester, Chester ( played to perfection by Ian Paul Custer) escapes to the same Royal Forest. Ruth and the Prince meet during a storm. Ruth saves his life and brings him back to the Castle, not yet knowing who this stranger is.

They fall in love causing the Queen to have to devise a test where Ruth has no chance of winning, allowing Buffy to be the Princess. She calls for a stack of 20 mattresses and places a small pea under them. If the “girl” cannot sleep, she will be hailed as a true princess. If she falls asleep, she will be sent on her way. In this version ( spoiler alert) she cannot sleep and so Queen Evermean gives in, and there is a royal wedding. The Moral of the story is, as we learn, “you cannot judge a book by its cover” and “we are and should be allowed to be who we are, not who others want us to be”. That is how I see it. How about you?

After the curtain call ( there is no curtain, but this is the term used for the bows) the actors take to the stage, the house lights come on and they field questions from the audience members. This is a fun part of the day, so I always suggest staying for the 15 minutes. I think we all learn a bit from this experience.

At this point, I usually have a child relate their experience. My grandkids feel that they are beyond the age of these productions so I find others to fill in the blanks. I did find a young lady sitting in our row , Iris Belsan, age 7 who said she thought “The Princess and the Pea” was “cool” and “fun”. Ruth was her favorite character and she thought the funniest moment was when the prince compares her eyes to bowling balls. She thought that was hilarious. Iris liked the characters and how they looked and their names. She says she wouldn’t change anything. She loved that the action moved quickly.

Her mother, who writes a column found at dedicated to family activities in Chicago suburbs asked her to add something for her review, but I guess being a part of aroundthetownchicago was enough! Thank you Iris.