BWW Review: A LITTLE PRINCESS SARA CREWE Delights at Creative Cauldron
Based on the novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett, Creative Cauldron's A LITTLE PRINCESS Sara Crewe is a charming take on the classic. Matt Conner and Stephen Gregory Smith infuse the time-worn story with delightful original songs, which the children of the Learning Theater Ensemble take on with infectious enthusiasm.
In this cleverly condensed version (with a book by Ellen Selby), Sara's father, Captain Crewe (Will Mark Stevenson) travels from India to London with his daughter Sara (Arianna Vargas) to enroll her in boarding school. Sara has been treated like a princess her whole life, and Miss Minchin (Izzy Smelkinson) quickly welcomes her as a star student. Sara strives to be a princess on the inside as well, treating others with kindness. But when she loses her father and her fortune, she's forced to work for her education, stripped of the trappings of wealth and privilege. Her inner princess attitude and the power of her imagination are all she has to overcome life's struggles.
Selby's book retains all the drama of the original story, plus plenty of humor to entertain children and adults alike. Vargas plays an earnest, self-possessed Sara, regaling her bright-eyed schoolmates with tales of heroines Joan of Arc, Queen Elizabeth I, and Marie Antoinette. The ensemble acts out these inspirational tales with vigor - it's downright adorable to hear their improvised French accents and watch their overzealous sword fights.
Stevenson and Smelkinson's performances each add professional gravity. Stevenson is stately and caring in the dual role of Captain Crewe and Crewe's friend Carrisford. Smelkinson, outfitted in a perfectly ghastly wig, plays villainous Miss Minchin with a simpering relish.
The songs and their reprises, especially "One Last Doll" and "The Princess You Want to Be", hit the right emotional notes. (They're also catchy; I woke up this morning with one of them in my head.) The music expresses themes themes of friendship and bravery on a level that audience members of any age can absorb.
This production is part of an educational program for children, so elements of the dialogue and songs are bound to be imperfect. But its originality and heart more than make up for any flaws. A LITTLE PRINCESS Sara Crewe is a youth-oriented production that's surprisingly refreshing, warm, and well worth experiencing.
Running time: approximately 1 hour 10 minutes with no intermission.
Creative Cauldron's A LITTLE PRINCESS Sara Crewe runs through November 19, 2017, at ArtSpace Falls Church, 410 South Maple Avenue, Falls Church, VA 22046. Tickets can be purchased at www.creativecauldron.org.
Graphic: courtesy of Creative Cauldron website.