Tuesday, November 25, 2014

New Rep Theatre Continues Its 30th Anniversary Season With "The Little Prince"

Nick Sulfaro as The Aviator
"The Little Prince"
New Rep Theatre
Through December 21

When Antoine Saint-Exupery published his novella and sketch book, "The Little Prince," about the mysterious boy who travels from a distant planet to the Sahara, critics were mixed in knowing how to categorize the work.  Was it a children's book or a philosophical work for adults?  The best comprise description seems to be that it is "a parable for grown people in the guise of a simple story for children."  Over the years there have been many dramatic adaptations of this tale on screen and on stage.  The current adaptation being presented by the New Rep Theatre uses Music by Rick Cummins and Book and Lyrics by John Scoullar.  The production is Directed and choreographed by Ilyse Robbins.  The Set design by Matthew Lazure is beautifully rendered, using elements that suggest airplane instruments, compasses and other astronomical devices, with a space for shadow projection, a rotating disc and hidden spaces that become volcanoes and wells.  Costumes by Chelsea Kerl are creative and effective, Lighting by Karen Perlow is just right as is Sound Design by Michael Policare.

The cast of four work hard during this show that feels a bit too long, partly because with a few exceptions, the music and lyrics are largely vanilla and forgettable.  The exceptions are the Prince's song "44 Sunsets," Conceited Man's "Admire Me," and the duet between the Fox and the Little Prince "Day After Day."

The Little Prince is portrayed by young Wil Moser.  He has a very pleasing singing voice and an engaging presence.  On opening night, his movements seemed a bit mechanical and deliberate, but he seems to have good stage instincts, so I expect that he will settle more comfortably into that aspect of the role as the run of the show progresses.

Nick Sulfaro as The Aviator stranded in the Sahara also has a very nice singing voice.  I would have wished for a bit more emotional range from his character, but I sense that some of that limited range is due to the way in which the character is written.  He shines in the number "Some Otherwhere."

Laura Jo Trexler shows flexibility in portraying both the  stationary Rose and the slithering Snake. She conveys heartbreak in singing her adieu to The Little Prince in "I Love You Goodbye."

Andrew Barbato plays a variety of Men of the Planets in Act I and The Fox in Act II.  He flat out steals the show.  His versatility in portraying a succession of solipsistic solo inhabitants of tiny planets is a delight.  I roared with laughter at his antics as a King, a Conceited Man and a Business Man.  As The Fox, he toggles back and forth between appearing ferocious one second and cuddly the next.  His interactions with The Little Prince as they negotiate whether or not the boy should undertake to "tame" the fox is a highlight of the show.

The theme of taming takes on a new form as the relationship between the Little Prince and the Aviator matures.  It is at this point that the story hones in on the metaphysical themes of the story as the fox imparts his wisdom to The Little Prince, who in turn shares it with the Aviator: "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."

There is much to delight the eye and ear in this show.    It can be a good holiday treat for the family.

"The Little Prince" will run at the Arsenal Center for the Arts trough December 21st.

New Rep Theatre Website



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