Also see John's coverage of 2011-2012 Pride Series
The original fairy tale tells of a prince who is having difficulty finding a suitable princess to wed. One stormy night a young woman drenched with rain seeks shelter in the prince's castle. She claims to be a princess, so the prince's mother decides to test the unexpected guest by placing a pea in the bed she is offered for the night, covered by 20 mattresses and 20 featherbeds. In the morning the guest tells her host that she endured a sleepless night. She has been kept awake by something hard in the bed, which she is certain has bruised her. The prince rejoices as only a real princess would have the sensitivity to feel a pea through such a quantity of bedding. The two are subsequently married, and live happily ever after.
This contemporary, musical adaptation contains only the briefest of nods to Once Upon A Mattress, focusing instead on the basic storyline with modern pop songs used throughout, sung by the performers. Set in the present day, we are introduced to a little girl who asks her grandmother to tell her a bedtime story. Together they select "The Princess and The Pea," which them comes to life around them in the bedroom of the little girl complete with posters of Justin Bieber and Hannah Montana. Aly Pentangelo is the perky Little Girl, dancing atop her bed and singing into her sparkly pink microphone. Arlandres Sims is the sassy Grandma a la Martin Lawrence in Big Momma's House. Kudos to Sims for being present enough to acknowledge and respond to a couple of moments of unexpected enthusiastic audience commentary (such as "Amen" and "Get it, girl").
Though perhaps lacking in grandness and detail, the set is suitable for this production, and the balance of the sound (body mics used with instrumental tracks) is generally good. Lighting seems without a specific plan, and there are distracting moments of darkness mid-center stage. Costuming is really quite nice, with good use of color and texture throughout the show. The deep purples used on the royal family are especially lovely.
Most of the songs chosen fit the moment and the character while complementing the voice of the actor. Promising actress Karen Reid (Princess Dave) has a few songs perfectly suited for her, such as "Unwritten (Feel The Rain On Your Skin)." Other moments sound a bit screechy like "Firework." Jean-Michel Rousseau has a smiling charm in his portrayal of Prince Christian. His charm is not as much in his experience and polish but in his just happily going for his acting moments without fear as in songs such as "Down." Elisa Danielle Welch is well cast as the beautiful if evil Queen Beatrice. Her rendition of "Another One Bites The Dust" is surprisingly sexy. Chad Lowe as the formerly mute King Charles goes a bit overboard in his big dramatic moment with the song "Crazy," distorting both the lyrics and the melody. Eric Bouza as Sir Quickly shows off a lovely lyric singing voice in the song "So Close," romantically sung to Chachi Colon as the enceinte Lady Luce. The solo, lyric dance piece at the top of act two is a nice addition to the performance.
The message of this production of The Princess & The Pea is a celebration of individuality and diversity, and that beauty comes from within. The large cast works well together in a mixture of scenes and songs crossing different styles. While some performers appear to be new to the stage, all have the chance to shine in a collaborative effort that reflects the inclusive message of the show.
The Princess & The Peawill be appearing through July 31, 2011. Performances take place Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 2 pm and 8 pm, and Sundays at 2 pm in The Fine Arts Theatre on Broward College's Central Campus, 3501 Davie Road, Building 6, Second Floor, Davie, Florida, 33314. Tickets for all performances are $5 for children, seniors, and BC students, faculty and staff, and $10 for general admission. For ticket purchase, or to receive more information call 954-201-6884.