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January 15, 2013 > Theatre Review: A Little Princess

Theatre Review: A Little Princess

By Jessica Noel Flohr

Lovers of children's literature will already be familiar with the story of Sara Crewe and her journey from riches to rags to riches once again. The beloved only child of adventurer and tradesman Captain Crewe, Sara lives a charmed life. Her mother has passed away and Captain Crewe has a harrowing journey to embark upon, so young Sara is sent to a girl's boarding school in her home country of England. She is not well received and must struggle to overcome judgment and mistreatment at the hands of her new caretakers.

The Frances Hodgson Burnett novel inspired Andrew Lippa and Brian Crawley's musical version of this story, though there are several differences to note. The novel has the Crewe family based in India, while the musical transports viewers to a British colony in San Louis in West Africa instead. It is unclear why this change was made, though the African dance numbers bring a lot of color and energy to the musical. Another notable difference between the novel and the musical is the location and recovery of Captain Crewe. In the novel and film versions, Captain Crewe is injured and taken in as a John Doe at the house of an older gentleman who happens to live next door to the girls' boarding school. In the musical, the Captain is ill and remains in Africa, while his travel companion journeys back to England to relay the message to the Captain's daughter.

Relatively minor differences aside, the musical conveys the spirit of the story beautifully. The contrast between refined, rather drab England and lively West Africa is vivid. The musical opens with young Sara confined to her room after having been banished from the communal table for not wearing shoes to dinner. The school's servant girl, Becky, sneaks food to Sara and questions her about life in Africa. As Sara reminisces, the stage becomes bright and filled with dancers in varicolored costumes. This theme of Sara's dreams and stories, played out by her companions from Africa, continues throughout the play. It brings life and excitement to the story and the stage.

The very petite Rachel Sue, a freshman at Fremont Christian School, plays the role of Sara Crewe. She has a very heartfelt presence on stage and is fits well in the role of the young girl. Cheyenne Wells, a Washington High School sophomore, plays her much-abused companion, Becky, the orphaned maid of the school. Sara shows Becky that being a princess is more about how one carries oneself and treats other people than one's position at birth.

The interaction between Miss Minchin, headmistress of the school, and her sister, Miss Amelia, is quite comical. Minchin is the antagonist, heaping hatred and jealousy on the head of Sara, who bears it all with grace. Amelia is kinder and simpler than her harsh sister, often being referred to as a "goose" in the play. She has several amusing lines. When asked by one of the girls if Egypt is in Africa, Amelia says, "Of course not! Egypt is in the Bible!"

This adaptation of a classic children's story was well done and a delight to view. The orchestra was superb! Dance numbers that drew the entire cast out on stage were well choreographed and the set was extremely well done, utilizing the stage and changing the mood, using beautiful scenery screens. StarStruck Theatre's musical is suitable for young and old alike. It will play throughout January at Ohlone College's Smith Center.

A Little Princess
January 11, 12, 18, 19, 25, & 26: 7:30 p.m.
January 13, 20, & 27: 2:30 p.m.
Smith Center at Ohlone College
43600 Mission Blvd., Fremont
(510) 659-1319

Tickets $20 - $26

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