The Musical Adaptation of the beloved story doesn’t quite soar like it could.
The Little Prince, originally published in 1943, is a children’s tale that has had tremendous staying power. The story has been adapted into film, tv, theatre, ballet and other artistic mediums. It was even continued in two “sequels” (I use quotations, as the original author never wrote a sequel). One of the many theatrical adaptations is a musical by John Scoullar and Rick Cummins, and it is currently being staged by Quintessence Theatre Group in a production that is charming, but saddled with a few decisions that hold the show back from being an extraterrestrial success.
He’s a Little Prince
The Little Prince tells the story of an aviator whose plane crashes into the Sahara Desert. As he is trying to fix his plane he encounters a small boy who is averse to answering questions, but loves to ask questions of his own. He and the aviator become friends and he regales the aviator with tales of his travels across the stars. It’s a children’s story and is filled with anecdotes and parables that help to investigate an idea in an easily accessible way. For a story geared to children, it does cover some deep topics including grief, loss, and love. The original art style is simplistic and colorful, with the image of the prince standing on his asteroid with his yellow scarf being extremely recognizable .
The production at Quintessence Theatre Group visually captures the novel well. Costumes by Anna Sorrentino and masks by Barbaric Yawp work seamlessly to evoke moments and images from the book. While the projections by Chris Carcione are designed in a way similar to the original art style. They work rather well to help tell the story, and are projected in positions that work well for the staging. All of the design elements are simple, yet effective in helping to heighten the story being told. They are also extremely well utilized by the five person cast to help signify certain character shifts throughout the show.
From Outer Space
Structurally, the show suffers from two aspects. The first being that the songs are generally forgettable, and while some are pleasant, there are many moments where the music seems unnecessary or tonally off with what has happened in the story. The second element is that the show just feels a touch too long. The script is oddly paced, and occasionally focuses on story elements that don’t seem fully relevant to the overall plot. It ambles a little too much without reaching the points of the parables.
While this production is visually pleasant, and battles against the show’s structural issues, it also suffers from a few elements that don’t quite work. The major issue is the two lead performers. Jered McLenigan as The Aviator is extremely exuberant as a performer, but he is unable to effectively navigate the characters' arc throughout, playing it a tad one note for the majority of the show. Jacinta Yelland as The Little Prince is instantly charming, and throughout all of the book scenes is extremely endearing. However, the score seems to be outside of her vocal range, and the show suffers from it. The two also lack a chemistry between them that invites the audience to go on this journey with them. The three ensemble members (Meagan Kimberly Smith, Matthew Wautier-Rodriguez, and Colleen Welsh) are all extremely talented, but not given enough to do within the confines of the script.
The story of The Little Prince is striking in its simplicity and effectiveness in discussing rather intense topics. It is filled with striking imagery and allegories that are accessible without feeling too obvious. While watching Quintessence Theatre’s production it is clear to see the reasons why this story has withstood the test of time, and why it is still relevant today. It just felt, overall, that this production was lacking the heart that is so fervently pounding throughout this story of a lost little prince searching for his way back to his rose.
The Little Prince is on stage at
the Sedgewick Theater
(7137 Germantown Ave.)
from now until December 31st, 2023.
For more information visit: quintessencetheatre.org.