My 4th grader and I had the opportunity to review Twelve Dancing Princesses at Stages Theatre on Friday night. Jennifer Kirkeby’s script is a softer, sweeter re-writing of the Grimm Fairy Tale, which you can find here. I am torn as to whether it is better to go in knowing the story or go in fresh. We had seen the Shelley DuVall version of the story a few years ago, but my daughter didn’t remember it. She seemed to follow the story pretty well.
The Grimm tale features several state executions which seem like they would have caused unnecessary wars; a not completely likable hero; arranged marriages that don’t seem to be in the best interest of the princesses or the crown; and a mysterious old woman who is never really explained. This is probably why it is not one of the more popular Grimm tales.
In the Stages version, instead of executing the foreign prince who fails to solve the mystery, they merely mock him and oust him from the kingdom. The Prince of Arrogance, who is played by Theodore Emo, is a likeable arrogant character. He reminded me a little of Neil Patrick Harris, and he really steals the show. Instead of a drifting old soldier, the hero (Logan Bitz Daum) is a young gardener who dreams of working the land.
King Phillip, played by Brent Teclaw is a doting father who is still grieving the death of his wife after several years. He insists his daughters will only marry for love and forbids dance only because it reminds him too much of his late wife. The mysterious old woman is the ghost of the queen, who appears in the forest every night to watch her daughters dance and feel close to them.
These changes make the play something appealing to children and adults. The death-transcending love between the king and the queen tugged at my heart while I’m certain my daughter only saw the budding romance between the young gardener and Princess Giselle (Marin Wilts). There were four choreographers involved with this musical (Shannon Butterfield Raines, Anna Esposito, Anna Hickey, Katie Schlosser). The ballet portions were beautiful, and I was a little concerned I would be asked to add ballet lessons to our already busy schedule after seeing this production.
This is an all ages show. I think that is a pretty accurate assessment as long as your child can sit still for slightly over an hour with no intermission. On a Friday evening, that was even a little bit of a challenge for my 9 year old. There are no scary parts. The romances are innocent and sweet. The questionable Grimm story lines have been written out. Overall, I would say this adaptation beats the original version of the story.
Stages Theatre provided complimentary tickets to facilitate my review of this play. All opinions are my own.