Stellar Vocals Power Kid-Friendly ‘A Little Princess’ (3 Stars)

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 ‘A Little Princess’  – Book & Lyrics by Brian Crawley, Music by Andrew Lippa, Directed and Produced by Meg Fofonoff, Music Director Balint Varga. Presented by The Fiddlehead Theatre Company, resident company of The Strand Theatre, 543 Columbia Rd, Dorchester, MA thru December 8th, 2013
There is much to be said about morality and feel-good happy endings in the musical, ‘A Little Princess’. Though this particular show is probably most entertaining to the little princesses in attendance, the sheer talent of its stars and ensemble will be much appreciated by the parents who accompany them. The singing alone will surely make you forget your troubles at the door.

Our tale is of a 12-year-old Sara Crewe (played by the lovely songbird Sirena Albalian with quite an impressive resume and vocal skill), who was born and raised in Africa by her military-employed father. Captain Crewe, who’s vocals are equally impressive, (played by the handsome Jared Troilo) must go on a mission to Timbuktu.  Therefore, he felt it was high time he put his rambunctious daughter into an English boarding school. So he takes off to Egypt with his equally talented and handsome assistant Pasko (Jared Dixon) and leaves his daughter to realize the troubles of social classes and middle school on her own.

Of course there must be an antagonist, so that’s where our operatic spinster Miss Minchin (Shane Dirik) comes in with her twittering and hilarious sister Miss Amelia (Bridget Beirne). I cannot stress enough how absolutely wonderful every vocalist in this show  is. Miss Minchin takes an immediate disliking to our princess, who isn’t actually a princess at all, but enjoys playing pretend with her servant friend Becky (comically played by Carly Kastel). We learn the relatable lesson on bullying when the wretched Lavinia (Tori Heinlein) makes it apparent that she is quite jealous of Sara. Ms Heinlein certainly did a swell job, considering how much I wanted to pinch her ear and send her to her room.  Sara admits that while she is not a real princess, she pretends to be one and always tries to show grace and politeness to everyone no matter how upset or angry she may be, which is where the good lessons to the children in the audience become apparent.
Things take a turn for the worse when there are rumors that Captain Crewe was killed on an illegal mission, putting Sara in financial ruin with no family. Miss Minchin had put her entire fortune into Sara’s father’s company, and now decidedly hates her even worse than before. When Sara is forced to become a servant alongside the ever-so-optimistic Becky, things start to get interesting. This is where your children will have their eyes and ears fixed to the stage, waiting for justice to come to fruition. Though I wouldn’t suspect they’ll understand all of the details, and by this time you adults may be checking your watch. Don’t worry too much, you’ll get back into it when Queen Victoria’s powerhouse vocals start booming in (played by Lilliane Klein), but I don’t wish to ruin the ending.

There were a few technical issues with the sound cutting out from the mics, and/or the orchestra overpowering the actors’ voices, which I hope that Fiddlehead can address since I was there on opening night. I was having a hard time understanding some of the songs, so the side story of vignettes updating you on the father’s situation was where I got a bit lost. I found it hard to understand what scenes were in Sara’s imagination, what were simply dreams, and what the other characters were “really seeing”, alhough perhaps it was easier for the kids to differentiate. I also found it troubling that only half the cast had English accents in Victorian England, especially the father being a member of the military and raising a daughter in English-run Africa. I was rather distracted by a Cockney servant girl being one of the few characters that was accurately represented. Director Meg Fofonoff may think it better to have a solidified vision of setting and character background in her next piece.

Aside from all of that, it was a beautiful theater to sit and enjoy the talented players on the stage. The ensemble alone was great, with the African ensemble doing backflips and singing joyfully, and the English ensemble wearing beautiful Victorian costumes and dancing in unison. If you have a little princess (or prince!) of your own, I would say to take them and support local theater that our dear Mayor Menino fought so hard to keep open at The Strand. This is great for the kiddies, but not so great for the adult theater buff. For more info, go to:


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