Repertory Philippines is closing their 49th season with A Little Princess, which features a book and lyrics by Brian Crawley and music by The Wild Party composer Andrew Lippa. It is based on the popular. Frances Hodgson Burnett book that inspired several adaptations, including a popular 90s film.
The story begins with Sara Crewe (Jillian Ita-as), who resides in the boarding home for girls run by the authoritarian figure Miss Minchin (Roselyn Perez). Here, Sara spends her days learning and fending off attacks from the resident bully Lavinia (Gabby Padilla), and her nights telling stories to friends Lottie (Sophia Volante) and Ermengarde, as well as little orphan maid Becky (Felicity Napuli). We follow more than just one storyline, as Sarah takes us back and forth between her past and present, as well as her father, Captain Crewe (Noel Rayos)’s expedition.
(READ: A Little Princess Closes Rep’s 2016 Season)
The lighting design makes the stage dance and come to life, which makes A Little Princess one of the most colorful shows staged this year, and the set design is extremely elegant and flows seamlessly all throughout the show.
The show has many spectacular performances from the cast. The numbers are well sung, and Dexter Santos’ choreography is fantastic. The ensemble hits each note and executes every move with immense energy and precision. The vocal performances in the show, especially that of the children’s, are splendid.
Apart from Sara and Becky, it’s hard to sympathize with the other characters. Her father’s narrative is anticlimactic, and the song of his right hand man Pasko in the second act could have been scrapped completely, especially since his role has hardly any impact on the events that take place, until after the song. We’re not meant to care about him until he’s necessary to move the story along. Miss Minchin is the show’s antagonist and her role is to make life difficult for Sara, which is fine in the second act, because certain events take place that make her motivation more believable. As far as the show has revealed in the first act, it seems that Minchin’s hatred for Sara spouts from the fact that the girl is born from privilege, which makes it seem like an old woman is jealous of a young girl.
With so much going on in terms of narrative and many numbers that seem shoehorned in to aid the story, A Little Princess just feels disjointed. However, if the the creatives behind the book and music were to scrap the numbers that didn’t fit into the show, there wouldn’t be much left apart from the occasional laugh and affectionate coos for the little girls’ performances.
A Little Princess is full of talented performers and has more than its fair share of great numbers, but the moments in between, and the construction of the story make this show a little hard to connect with.
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