Reviving classic tales with new twists, NKU SOTA’s The Princess Plays by Ken Jones (who also directs), Jamey Strawn (who also music directs and serves as Sound Designer), and Christine Jones is a fun and interesting take on age-old faerie tales while keeping true to the more familiar parts.
The Princess Plays was originally commissioned by The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati – so naturally, much of the properties, costumes, and puppets come along with the package. As we’ve come to expect from both TCT and NKU SOTA, these aspects are the cream of the crop. The first act of the show gives us “Snow White and the Dancing Dwarves,” a fun little take on a tale of very similar name. The second act offers us “Sleeping Beauty:Rise and Shine,” which is a semi-modern twist on…well, you know.
In all honesty, it might be a wiser decision to present these as two separate musicals as the run time for both shows together with a short intermission is over 3 hours long. Children certainly have trouble staying focused for so long. Adults might be even worse at it. In addition, when taking creative liberties such as giving the Dwarves a multi-cultural flair (which is a really intriguing and cute idea!), it might be best to avoid stereotypes. Public service announcement: four-leaf clovers are NOT Irish.
The Production Team for The Princess Plays
Aesthetics are very important in any telling of a faerie tale and this production lives up to the tasks. Scenic Designer Tyler Gabbard excels in creating very believable castle and forest settings. Sound balance issues do rear their ugly head as is often the case with a large (and talented!) orchestra set against soloists, but those can be easily fixed with time. (I saw the show Opening Night which can often be filled with teachable moments).
Wig Master Missy J. White impresses with some beautiful chosen and styled wigs. Costume Coordinator and Shop Manager Cat Schmeal-Swope does a fantastic job with colour and fit decisions. Keeping characters like Snow White and the good faeries from “Sleeping Beauty” in costumes which resonate with audiences young and old while updating and adding special touches to other characters is a bang-on inclination and works beautifully in every way.
Standout crew member without question is Maddie Jones who serves as our Choreographer. The movement and choreographed dance moments are wonderfully entertaining and unrepetitive. There are carefully chosen solo “moments” for characters as well as cohesive group numbers. Simply not enough good things to say about the dancing – brava, Maddie (and the dancers)!
Last, but certainly not least are our leading ladies: Chloe Esmeier as Snow White and Hailey Watson (who also shows some mad puppet skills in the first act!) as Sleeping Beauty aka Rory as she prefers to be called. Ms. Esmeier show us a genuine sweetness which will make any audience member believe she could indeed befriend all who cross her path, including the animal kingdom. She also boasts some sharp comic timing in a certain bit about a comb (as does her Prince, Nick Rohr). Ms. Watson is no slouch as Rory, either. Her acting and vocal talents are exercised nicely as the spunky and slightly awkward princess-in-training. These young people are clearly ready for the demands of professional artistry and that alone deserves a round of applause.
All in all, The Princess Plays is filled with creativity and nostalgia in the loveliest of ways. How easily we can forget that stories with a happy ending are some of the best ways to put a smile on our face and a lilt in our step. Perhaps we should remind ourselves of the happy things more often.