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SYNOPSIS

A Little Princess
Book by Robert Sickinger
Music and Lyrics by Mel Atkey

Act I
PLACE - Washington DC 1863-65.
COLONEL WHITNEY CREWE a Union Army Officer volunteers to fight in the Civil War. We meet him and his ten year old daughter, SARA, and the COLONEL'S battalion on the camp grounds; they sing the rousing [SONG #1: THE COLONEL'S DAUGHTER]. The COLONEL leaves his daughter, SARA, at a strict boarding school instructing the schoolmistress, MISS MINCHIN, to take special care of her regardless of cost. COLONEL and SARA sing farewell as the COLONEL leaves for battle. [SONG #2: KEEP UP YOUR CHIN]. SARA alone without her Father sadly sings of her loss to her doll Emily [SONG #3: WHEN THE DOLLS COME OUT TO PLAY.] MISS MINCHIN furious with all the presents and luxuries the COLONEL has showered on SARA sings with the YOUNG LADIES of the school [SONG #4: A LITTLE PRINCESS.] MISS MINCHIN’S niece MARIETTE, the school's French teacher, welcomes SARA to her French Class and SARA who excels in French leads the class in a song [SONG #5: THE FRENCH LESSON.] MISS MINCHIN interrupts the class, reprimanding MARIETTE for allowing a student to lead a class and forbids MARIETTE to see her Spanish beau, RICARDO, a riding instructor at the school (she sees him as not being good enough for her nice). MISS MINCHIN’S brother ETHELBERT a onetime vaudeville and minstrel performer teaches DRAMA and ELOCUTION at the school, befriends SARA who joins him with his love of performing in a song and dance skit with ZOE, a nine year old black orphan girl who is indentured at the school as a scullery maid and become SARA'S best friend. [SONG #6: SAWDUST ON THE FLOOR.] Against MISS MINCHIN'S orders MARIETTE takes SARA to her riding lesson. RICARDO and MARIETTE sing of MISS MINCHIN'S prejudicial mind set [ MUSIC #7: THE MODERN WORLD. ] RICARDO receives notice that he has been conscripted in the Union Cavalry and leaves for the battlefield. RICARDO and MARIETTE sing farewell [SONG #8: THE MODERN WORLD.] The day celebrating the end of the Civil War a Birthday Party is in progress for SARA, COMPANY sings [MUSIC #10: BLOW OUT YOUR CANDLES.] The party is interrupted by THOMAS HEMMINGS the COLONEL'S finance representative. He announces to MISS MINCHIN the COLONEL is listed among the dead and his mills have been confiscated by the Confederate Army. MISS MINCHIN stops the party and tells SARA her father is dead and she is penniless and assigns her to live with ZOE in the attic. SARA, ZOE, MARIETTE and COMPANY sing [SONG #11: CARRY ON.]

Act II
SARA reduced to beggar, drudge and scullery maid remains strong willed, plucky and courageous. The YOUNG LADIES of the School visit ZOE and SARA in the attic. LAVINIA an older girl jealous of SARA'S talent and imagination mocks SARA'S sad state of affairs. [SONG #12: SHE'S NOT A PRINCESS NOW.] They leave and ERMENGARDE, a younger girl who does not fit in the school, finds a Mother in SARA and with ZOE they vow their allegiance to one another [ SONG #13: ONE FOR ALL ALL FOR ONE.] SARA weaves a tale of how ZOE is a Princess descended from an African Queen [SONG #14: A QUEEN IN AMERICA.] Christmas Eve the COMPANY leaves the school singing [SONG #15: VERY MERRY HOLLY BERRY SONG!!!] The doors lock leaving SARA and ZOE behind hungry and without presents, polishing and scrubbing the school and left with leftover vegetable scraps they sing [ SONG #16: A DREAM OF CHRISTMAS.] The tired children go to sleep and are awakened by a dream [ SONG #17: A CHRISTMAS FANTASY.] The attic is transformed into a palace and the CHRISTMAS SNOW FAIRY [MISS MINCHIN] presides. YOUNG LADIES present the orphans with a sumptuous Christmas dinner. FATHER CHRISTMAS [ETHELBERT] appears with presents. CHRISTMAS SNOW FAIRY marries RICARDO and MARIETTE. Zoe's and Sara's PARENTS enter dancing a Waltz; the children reach out to touch their parents as the fantasy dissolves. SARA vows the fantasy has been a sign to tell her Father is alive. A new shipment of wounded soldiers has arrived at a nearby Hospital and SARA is off to search for him. ETHELBERT joins the Army to entertain the troops and he and SARA are now a team and entertain the troops in the hospital [SONG #18: THE ROYAL VAUDEVILLE SHOW.] and find MARIETTE with a wounded RICARDO who announce their marriage and sing. [ SONG #19: WHAT SHALL WE FIGHT FOR NOW.] SARA FINDS her wounded and amnesic Father who recognizes SARA'S voice and is restored. [SONG #20: A MOTHER TO MY FATHER .] ZOE joins the Crewe family. Their great love and devotion for each other reunites them as ABRAHAM LINCOLN enters, the ward comforting and honoring the bravery of his soldiers and leads the COMPANY [SONG #21: TAKE AWAY!]

 

REVIEWS

Show Business Weekly
Review By Christina Girardi

In this musical adaptation of A Little Princess, written and directed by Robert Sickinger, the story is transplanted from Victorian England (as in the original Frances Hodgson Burnett children's book) to Civil War America. In this version the young Sarah Crewe and her doting father are separated by war when he is called to duty. The script is colorful and the direction swift, creating a moving, wistful dramatic production of children’s theater.


A live orchestra, excellently directed by Mary Ann Ivan, accompanies this production and the songs, written by Mel Atkey, perfectly match the scenes. A banjo ads authentic American character while stately drum rolls introduce the Colonel. "Keep Up Your Chin" carries an especially sweet melody and emphasizes the importance of being optimistic.


Kristin Danielle Klabunde, a talented actress and songbird-like soprano, plays Sarah, a sweet, thoughtful girl accustomed to her father’s adoring attention and lavish gifts. Surprisingly, Sarah is not a spoiled brat; she has a good heart and a mature perspective. She befriends Zoe, the African-American orphan who works as a maid at her private school for girls. When her father is presumed dead, the headmistress, Ms. Minchin, deems Sarah a "scullery maid" and banishes her to the attic.


Monica Soyemi does an outstanding job portraying Zoe, a young girl with an endearing smile and who is warm and friendly despite her lot that she pulls at your heartstrings. The girls’ friendship is a central development in this play as they learn to comfort each other when they are left alone in the attic on Christmas. Their voices combine into one gorgeous sound in their duet, "Dream of Christmas," and their friendship deepens further when they embark on a journey together to seek out Sarah’s father.


David Lee Kellner portrays Colonel Crewe and with his oceanic eyes, generous auburn hair and exquisite beard, it seems as though he were transported to the stage directly from the United States circa 1860. As Sarah’s father, Kellner convincingly portrays a great inner strength and sincere love for his daughter.
The set design by Billy Fox is elegant and is characterized by portraits of Civil War notaries and Renoir’s pastel paintings of young women. Intricate authentic costumes, ranging from Union Army attire to party dresses to tweed frocks and lace-up boots, capture the Civil War era and enhance the grand aesthetic of the production.

Family Fare
By Laurel Graber

A Yankee Cinderella


Literature is full of brave, innocent English children persecuted by selfish, mean-spirited adults. And while Sara Crewe of "A Little Princess" may not be quite as famous as Jane Eyre or Oliver Twist, she has just as much pluck. Now, through a new two-hour stage adaptation at the Wings Theater, she may win more fans on this side of the Atlantic: she has gained an American identity.

This musical, with a book and direction by Robert Sickinger, has transplanted "A Little Princess" by Frances Hodgson Burnett (best known for "The Secret Garden") from Victorian London to Civil War-era Washington. Sara's father, the kindly widower Captain Crewe, has been transformed from a businessman in India to a colonel in the Union Army. But the school Sara attends is still Miss Minchin's, whose harridan of a headmistress tolerates Sara, her father's "little princess," only as long as the Crewe fortune lasts.

As soon as Colonel Crewe is reported killed and his business destroyed (in the book he dies of jungle fever), Miss Minchin (Patty Montano) turns Sara into a scullery maid. Sara's loyal friend Becky, a Cockney servant in the novel, is here a black slave named Zoe (Monica Soyemi).

Knowledgable audiences may ask themselves why Zoe is still enslaved at the end of 1862 when slavery had been abolished in Washington months before. But if this "Little Princess" is a bit fuzzy on dates, it still has charm. Mr. Sickinger has given Miss Minchin a good-natured brother and a kind niece, who add adventurous subplots. And Mel Atkey, who wrote the score and lyrics, has composed lovely music whose fiddle passages recall period tunes.

The cast was strong at the performance I attended (Kristin Danielle Klabunde and Grace Clary alternate as Sara), and if the romanticized ending differs from the novel's, the point comes through: nobility is about character, not social station.

Excerpt from: New York Times, November 7, 2003, Friday, Late Edition - Final, Section E; Part 2; Page 37; Column 1; Leisure/Weekend Desk

Backstage
November 24th, 2003
"A Little Princess"
Review by Michael Lazan

An emotional children's musical about a young orphaned girl left in a boarding school, "A Little Princess," based on the classic Frances Hodgson Burnett novel, enchants with carefully drawn characters, nicely written songs, and a comfortably old-fashioned feel.

Robert Sickinger's book recalls the Shirley Temple movie, but resets the action from Victorian England to America during the Civil War. Sara, a rather privileged young girl, has no mother and is very close with her father, the dignified and warm Colonel Crewe. When duty calls the colonel to war, Sara is left at a boarding school with a group of resentful girls and a fantastically vicious headmistress named Miss Minchin.

Things go terribly wrong for Sara when she learns that the colonel is dead on the battlefield. She is forced to sell her clothes, fineries, and possessions, and Miss Minchin turns her into a scullery maid to keep her place in the school. As a result, she strikes up a friendship with Zoe, a young girl of color who is also an orphan and maid. Along the way, there is a possibly superfluous subplot involving a young employee of the school named Mariette, who seeks to marry a young man named Ricardo.

If it sounds melodramatic, it is, but the children in the audience loved it, including my daughter Olivia. And though it might seem too dark a subject for a children's musical, the good-natured feel throughout and the happy ending make this a piece suitable for even young ages.

Mel Atkey's songs were catchy; I heard Olivia humming them during intermission. Adapter-director Sickinger drew strong performances from his large and able cast, with Grace Clary solid as Sara and Monica Soyemi extremely appealing as Zoe. As Miss Minchin, Patty Montano created a dramatically potent villain. Jenna Rose sparkled as Mariette, also showing a potent voice, and Doug Wynn was quite able as Ricardo.

 


Pictures: click on a thumbnail to enlarge

Emily Blau - Abigail

StacyLyn Bennett - Lavinia

Kurt Bardele* - Lincoln

Juliana Bristol - Lottie

Kristina Bristol - Peregrine

Sara Bristol (age 11) - Prudence

Grace Clary - Sara Crewe

Tom Cleary* - Ethelbert

Danielle Cohen - Hannah Lovey

Carina Episcopio - Zoe's Mother

Kelly Driscoll - Brittania

Sydney Fishman - Henrietta

Jim Fitzpatrick - Captain Phineas McCoy

Samantha Garrabrant (age 10) - Annalise

Andrew Fitzgerald Graham - Thomas Hemmings

Richard Hebert - Beggar Veteran

Eric Christopher Hoelle - Private Justin Porter

David Lee Kellner* - Colonel

Kristin Danielle Klabunde* (age 11) - Sara Crewe

Regina LoBiondo (age 7) - Ermengarde

Maria Malanga - Jessica

Catherine Mikula - Claudia

Patty Montano - Miss Minchin

Jenna Rose - Mariette

Monica Soyemi* (age 10) - Zoe

Len Weiss - Doctor Walter Reid and Soldier

Briana Wolf (age 12) - Rebecca

Doug Wynn - Ricardo
Audio
Little Princess Track 1
Little Princess Track 2
Little Princess Track 3
Little Princess Track 4
Little Princess Track 5

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