The Little Prince at Flat Rock Playhouse YouTheatre

Published 9:24 am Friday, March 15, 2013

For its first show in 2013, the Flat Rock Playhouse YouTheatre brings the classic children’s book, The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry at Playhouse Downtown to stage.

Adapted by Rick Cummins and John Scoullarin as a musical that caters to school audiences and families, its simple messages like: “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly and (w)hat is essential is invisible to the eye,” speak to all ages.

Saint-Exupéry wrote and illustrated The Little Prince (or Le Petit Prince) during his exile in the United States as a French reserve military pilot in World War II. The tale of loneliness, friendship and love, as experienced by a young prince who fell to Earth from an asteroid, appears to be influenced from the author’s own experiences when his plane crashed in the Sahara desert.

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After it was published in 1943, the novella become the most read and most translated book in the French language (250 languages and dialects, including Braille), and was voted the best book of the 20th century in France.

Although the script of this popular book follows the storyline fairly well, the play does not contain the complete text and is missing, of course, the whimsical watercolor illustrations by the author.

Dennis C. Maulden’s stage design, however, does a good job of making up for that with backlit computer images that display a likeness of some of the illustrations as the story unfolds. The costumes by Ashley Arnold and direction by Dave Hart, however, are sometimes more reminiscent of a Dr. Seuss book than how Saint-Exupéry portrayed his characters.

The YouTheatre student cast also includes Flat Rock Playhouse alumni, Jessie Siak, who does an excellent job in the role of the Aviator opposite Louise Cummins’ admirable portrayal of the little prince (Anna Yokote plays this role on alternate weeks). Although the young Cummins shows great promise as she plays her lines with wonderfully varied expression, it appears she either needs to grow into a more even quality in her singing voice or musical director, Dan Gibson, needs to find a more appropriate key for her. Other cast highlights include very funny comedic relief from the Lamplighters, Ryan and Raja Jalernpan, and effective choreography by Lauren Rogers-Hopkins and excellent dancing by Emily Holbert as the Snake.