THE PRINCESS PLAYS Charm Audiences At Northern Kentucky University's Corbett Theatre

The show features a brilliantly comical take on the classic Brothers Grimm version of Snow White and a Steampunk, Rock and Roll retelling of Sleeping Beauty.

By: Mar. 27, 2023
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THE PRINCESS PLAYS Charm Audiences At Northern Kentucky University's Corbett Theatre

Northern Kentucky University's Corbett Theatre just opened THE PRINCESS PLAYS, a hilariously twisted musical take on two classic fairy tales. From the creators of the comic tour de force, CHURCH GIRLS, and the worldwide musical theatre hit BURGERTOWN, comes a brilliantly comical take on the classic Brothers Grimm version of Snow White and a Steampunk, Rock and Roll retelling of Sleeping Beauty. Ken Jones (book), Jamey Strawn (music) and Christine Jones (lyrics) know how to write for children, while at the same time, entertaining adults. And let's just say it, Strawn and C. Jones can write beautiful songs, in particular, WHERE DREAMS BELONG (sung by Chloe Esmeier) and WAKE UP (sung by Hailey Watson.)

In this take on the Snow White tale, the story cover all the major characters including beautiful but naive Snow White (Esmeier), her hilariously conniving evil stepmother (Elliet Malatesta), the all-knowing and witty mirror (Field Oldham) and the handsome but not-too-brainy prince (Nick Rohr.) The show also cleverly features dances from around the world by making each dwarf a representative of dance style; the waltz, polka, Texas two-step, ballet, tango, Irish step dance, and tap. These performers dance throughout the show to the vibrant choreography by Maddie Jones. The show entertains and grabs our attention as this powerful cast sing and dance their way into our hearts. Esmeier should pack her bags and move to Disney World because her Snow White is a living version of the cartoon. Rohr as the self-centered Prince delivers a comic scene that is perfect in timing and Oldham provides narration and humor from behind a mirror. But Malatesta steals the limelight with her performance of Queen Tempestula. She finds that fine line between the comical and scary, and she treads that line with ease. And Spoiler alert... there is a bear puppet (a huge bear puppet operated by two actors- Payton Trout and Austin Mills) that can charm even the most cynical of audience members.

Now, for the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale, the scenic Designer, Tyler Gabbard, and the lighting designer Jo Sanburg somehow magically transform the playing space from a traditional fairy tale design in the first act to a SteamPunk world in the second act. Let's remember that this transformation happens during a 15-minute intermission. Kudos to all the designers for challenging our senses with two complete designs in a two- hour show! I should also mention that NKU wisely partnered with Cincinnati's own premiere Children's Theatre to utilize their costumes and puppetry prowess. The program points this out, so hat's off to The Children's Theatre and Roderick Justice, Artistic Director. I imagine the experience of college students working with a professional theatre is life changing for those students involved.

SLEEPING BEAUTY: RISE AND SHINE takes Princess Aurora, the original Sleeping Beauty, and makes her Rory (Watson), a modern, bold, unconventional young heroine who defies and challenges the ideals of the age-old traditions. The show opens with a hilarious updating that includes comic allusions to our modern culture touching on the absurdities of video games and social media. A moment that has me chuckling still is when the Princesses take a 'selfie' with the magical spinning wheel. The 1800's version of a selfie is actually an artist painting at breakneck speed only to reveal a photograph like painting, which they plan to post on their wall... their castle wall! As Rory's eighteenth birthday nears, she encounters an evil witch (Chloe Hedrick) and a cursed spinning wheel. Aurora is tested when she fails, for the first time, to believe in her authentic self. Then with help from her sweet Prince Phillip (Alec Harrison), she awakens, ready to rock, and begin a whirlwind musical quest to defeat the witch and restore order to the Kingdom. Hedrick stops the show with a power rock version of the song SICK N TIRED, which conjures up the souls of 70's and 80's female rock stars. That performance alone is worth the price of a ticket! Alec Harrison will break your heart as the befuddle Prince when he cannot live up to the expectation of being a Prince. But the entire show rests on the shoulders of Watson as the sleeping beauty, and she carries it beautifully. She makes you laugh and cry jumping between comical precision and a heart wrenching delivery of the song WAKE UP, as the character discovers that believing in yourself is more important than being accepted by social cliques. A spectacular surprise is the reveal of the 10-piece rock band led by Strawn (composer and musical director). These are some of the best musicians in Cincinnati and they jam in this production. Another spoiler alert... there is a 30-foot smoke blowing dragon (operated by 5 puppeteers) at the end of the show, and take it from me, it's worth the wait!

Congratulations to Ken Jones as the director (and writer) for pulling all these elements together. Regional audiences still talk about his SPAMALOT, LES MISERABLES, JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, WIZARD OF OZ (TCT/TAFT) and his SWEENEY TODD (Carnegie), and now they can add this production of THE PRINCESS PLAYS to the list. A word of warning is that Snow White is aimed towards younger children, while Sleeping Beauty focuses on the issues of tweens and teens, but honestly, adults will be thoroughly entertained by that Warner Bros. cartoon-like mix of adult humor sprinkled in the material for children.

THE PRINCESS PLAYS runs this week at NKU's Corbett Theatre with evening performances March 30 through April 2, with matinees on Saturday and Sunday. To buy tickets go to


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