Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Boston

The Little Prince
New Repertory Theatre


Wil Moser
The Little Prince is a beloved fable, appealing to children and adults alike. The 1943 novella by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the most-read and most-translated book in French language history, has been adapted into a musical by John Scoullar (book and lyrics) and Rick Cummins (music), and New Repertory Theatre in Watertown has chosen it to run through the holiday season. Ilyse Robbins wears two hats as director and choreographer, with musical direction by Todd C. Gordon.

For the uninitiated, the story follows the journey of The Aviator (Nick Sulfaro) whose plane is forced down in the Sahara, a thousand miles from help. He meets The Little Prince (Wil Moser), a strange and extraordinary boy from a tiny planet, who regales him with tales of his interplanetary travels and the sundry characters (Andrew Barbato, Laura Jo Trexler) he meets along the way. Bonding and life lessons about what really matters ensue.

Moser handles the pressure of the spotlight with an ease belying his youth. He sings pleasantly and connects well with the rest of the ensemble. Sulfaro has appeared in lesser roles in previous New Rep productions (Camelot, Rent) and shows growth and depth in this part. He conveys a range of emotions, especially in the Aviator's musical numbers. However, it is problematic that the script calls for the title role to be aged 8-12 and the Aviator to be cast as 40. Moser is 15 and Sulfaro only 26 years old, far too young to be as jaded and impatient as his character appears, and their closeness in age eliminates the dynamic of the paternal relationship which is central to the story. It takes a child to show an adult how to figure out what is important, to re-awaken the child within, but the chemistry between Moser and Sulfaro is more fraternal.

The Prince learns his lessons by observing the grown-ups (don't be like them) and the anthropomorphic animals he encounters. Barbato steals the show as he shines in differentiating the Men of the Planets, an eclectic group, and the Fox who is, perhaps, the wisest of all. He is the one who shares the secret philosophy, "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye." Trexler shows good range as the narcissistic Rose and the Snake, a dangerous temptress, and possesses a lovely, clear soprano voice.

Helping to tell the tale, Gordon (piano) and two reed players (Mike Jacobs, Jeri Sykes) provide lively accompaniment for a little over a dozen musical numbers. Robbins and the design team of Matthew Lazare (scenic) and Karen Perlow (lighting) successfully suggest the celestial world of the play, and Chelsea Kerl (costume) employs whimsy to give life to the Men of the Planets, the Rose, the Fox, and the Snake. A large, circular clock face on the floor rotates as the Prince perambulates the other planets, and a projection screen on the backdrop shows a hand tracing the drawings of the Aviator.

Considering its themes of flight, space travel, and the lightness of being, The Little Prince is downright earthbound. Cummins and Scoullar have edited out a few characters and rearranged the order of events, but they still rely heavily on the Aviator narrating his story, which tends to dull the dramatic effect. While some of the musical numbers are fun, and there are a couple of touching ballads, others are too long and repetitive. In addition, the distribution of songs is unbalanced, with the second act having only a third as many as the first act. Even with Robbins' vision and obvious affection for the work, this flight fails to launch.

The Little Prince, performances through December 21, 2014, at New Repertory Theatre, Arsenal Center for the Arts, 321 Arsenal Street, Watertown, MA; Box Office 617-923-8487 or www.newrep.org.

Music by Rick Cummins, Book and Lyrics by John Scoullar, Based on the book by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Directed & Choreographed by Ilyse Robbins, Musical Direction by Todd C. Gordon; Additional Orchestrations by David McGrory; Scenic Designer, Matthew Lazure; Costume Designer, Chelsea Kerl; Lighting Designer, Karen Perlow; Sound Designer, Michael Policare; Stage Manager, Anna Burnham

Cast (in alphabetical order): Andrew Barbato, Wil Moser, Nick Sulfaro, Laura Jo Trexler


Photo: Andrew Brilliant/Brilliant Pictures

- Nancy Grossman




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