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HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: 'The Princess and the Pea'

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

I must preface this review by saying that I love the works of Hans Christian Andersen. His “Red Shoes”, “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, “The Ugly Duckling” and of course, “The Princess and the Pea” which is now on the stage at Marriott Theatre For Young Adults in Lincolnshire. These are the roughly one hour adaptations of many children’s stories with music that introduce our young people to the excitement that is created by “Live Theater”. I for one, love this! This tale has a book and lyrics by Rick Boynton with music by Marc Robin and additional lyrics by Robin and Curt Dale Clark. Great job!

These stories, brought to life with wonderful acting and singing get the moral of the story to the kids (and in some cases, the adults that they bring to the theater). Sitting in my seat and watching the kids tell the adults to turn off their cell phones was worth making the trip to Lincolnshire , but the show itself was a huge surprise. As I already mentioned, I love Andersen’s tales. I recall, as a younger person watching Danny Kaye’s film biography of this fabulist. It may have been this film that made me adore his writings, and also to peak my interest in the arts (which I have been involved with for over 60 years).

“The Princess and the Pea” is the story of how “true love triumphs” in the end. Marriott’s slick production using a minimum of actors but all solid talents, tells of the epic story of Prince Wellington (who better for this adorable character than the adorable Alex Goodrich) who is becoming of age and must marry. His mother, Queen Evermean (Susan Moniz has become quite good at these character roles in kids stories) wants only a true Princess for her one and only son and she has arranged a test to find the perfect one. Using only one girl, amazingly played by Samantha Pauly to represent the thousands of locals who want to wed their Prince, we have some very comical moments. Remember this name. You will see more of her.

Most of you who read me on a regular basis, know that for kids shows, my grandchildren attend with me and give their report. They were all tied up today with sports functions and so I brought with me two young ladies, granddaughters of a good friend of mine, the Miller sisters, Rachel age 9 and Kailey, age 11. Both of them found the show to be a wonderful experience and are hopeful that they can see more plays in the future. They agreed that the performance by Ms Pauly as Buffy, the Princess that the Queen had chosen, was wonderful. Her singing and her comic touch made both of the girls laugh.

As I do when I take other people’s kids, I take a glance towards them from time to time and at one point Rachel’s eyes were so wide, I thought she might not blink again. They both had great smiles when Ruth, (once again Dara Cameron shows us her powerful voice and her adorable stage presence) could not fall asleep on the stack of bedding known as ZZ860. I won’t say any more on this part- thanks girls for coming with me and for your thoughts. Oh, yes, they loved the entire show!

The story takes some twists and turns as our hero, Prince Wellington sneaks out of the castle to find himself (I guess this tale is also a “coming of age” story) and meets the beautiful Ruth. Ruth has just left her father, played to perfection by Chicago favorite Don Forsten (who also plays the TV announcer “calling the Princess contest” as if it were breaking eyewitness news). Yes, during the Q & A that they have after the show, kids asked about how there was TV a long, long time ago in a place far, far away. I guess that is what they call “poetic license”. It is time for Ruth to become a woman. She meets the Prince in the forest and during a storm, she saves his life, in several ways. This is where the “love” part comes in.

The other cast member, Derrick Trumbly is a powerful Chester the Jester, aid to the Queen, supervisor of Wellington and all around “good guy”. It is amazing how Marriott can take a large production and bring it down to an hour and use a small cast and bring on a solid production that will leave an imprint on the minds of each audience member, young and old!

Your children will learn the value of true love and honesty. It won’t hurt the adults that bring them either, sort of a refresher course in human nature when you share it with the kids in your life. Under the direction of Scott Weinstein and musical direction of Ryan T. Nelson, we all walk away with a warm feeling about life, and what more can anyone expect from a morning at the theater.