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Marriott Theatre’s 'The Emperor’s New Clothes' a Stripped-Down Delight

Children’s theatre is a tough nut to crack. It must be entertaining to both children and their parents, yet must be presented in a format conducive to children’s shorter attention spans while still conveying a fully developed story arc.

Marriott Theatre’s production of The Emperor’s New Clothes succeeds on all fronts.

The story follows the ascension of young prince Marcus to the emperor’s throne at the tender age of 14. Uncertain he possesses the leadership to take on the role of emperor, Marcus decides that the clothes must make the man, and thus falls victim to a swindler’s promise of magic clothes that are “invisible to fools.”

The clothes, of course, do not exist. But, not wanting to be labeled fools, Emperor Marcus and his royal court pretend they can see them and stage a parade to display the new royal clothes – when in truth the Emperor is in nothing more than his undergarments. Only the truth spoken by a simpleminded palace mop boy can make them see the error of their ways.

The Marriott’s stripped-down production features a small, but strong cast of singing, dancing actors. The Chicagoland all-stars making up the cast include Declan Desmond as Emperor Marcus, Garrett Lutz as palace mop boy Arno, Johanna McKenzie Miller as The Swindler, Christine Bunuan as Deena, and George Keating as William.

Desmond is appropriately charming yet uncertain as young Emperor Marcus. Lutz is the audience favorite as comical palace mop boy Arno. Miller is a fine villain, more greedy and dishonest than evil. Bunuan and Keating make a delightful mismatched pair of palace advisors.

The charming and whimsical production is directed and choreographed by Amanda Tanguay, with music direction by Ryan T. Nelson. The music is high-spirited with catchy choruses that are perfect for a child’s taste and attention. The story is fun and entertaining.