“The Princess Plays” Refreshes Favorite Fairytales

Much like a double-feature, The Princess Plays presents two full musicals in one night at the NKU Corbett Theatre. Each actor plays a role in both “Snow White and the Dancing Dwarfs” and “Sleeping Beauty: Rise and Shine.” Both shows offer new twists on familiar favorites for kids and nostalgic adults. 

Review by Christy Carson

Taking on two different shows with the same cast can’t be easy, but Director Ken Jones and Assistant Director Gabby Casto guided this cast well to keep the energetic pacing moving along. Stage Manager Marcia Fortner and Assistant Stage Managers Kiley Ernst and Reagan Wildoner undoubtedly have their hands full each night, but never miss a beat with the many cues and transitions with these two shows.

Snow White and the Dancing Dwarfs

Snow White and the Dancing Dwarfs take a pose during The Princess Plays at NKU
Snow White and the Dancing Dwarfs take a pose during The Princess Plays at NKU

Field Oldham plays a very entertaining Mirror who serves as the narrator of our story as well as a character in the story. Since most of us are familiar with the premise of Snow White, the interruptions from the guards and his struggle to tell the exposition are welcome comedic bits. 

Elliet Malatesta as Tempestula (the evil queen) brings all the vanity, energy, and animation you could hope for in a fairytale villain without actually animating her. Her voice and characterization never waver. She makes it easy to believe all she wants is to be the fairest of them all. It’s hard to dislike her for it with how well she owns the stage. 

Chloe Esmeier embodies Snow White’s gentleness and joy in her expressions and her movement right away. The puppet work that creates the iconic enchanted forest animals builds a magical world for Snow White to interact with. The Porcupine Puppet played by Alleyne Louise earned some fun laughter. Snow White’s good, kind nature creates empathy for her just as the Huntsman (Jeremiah Jackson) approaches. Shoutout to Jackson for his vocals in “It Must Be Done.”

Meeting the Dancing Dwarfs

In search of shelter, Snow White finds a cottage that is home to dwarfs. If you thought you knew this part, think again. These are not the dwarfs you’re familiar with; they’re dancing dwarfs. The choreography (Maddie Jones) is a fun addition and very well done.

Each dwarf also has their own unique character. The costumes (coordinated by Cat Schmeal-Swope) went a long way to suggest their height since the actors themselves were not actually shorter than the others. Eventually the dwarfs embrace Snow White into their family, and it seems they might live happily ever after.

Or will they? How long until Tempestula asks the Mirror who is the fairest of them all and discovers Snow White is still alive? Will Snow White ever meet a lovely prince? Get your tickets now to find out!

Sleeping Beauty: Rise and Shine

Magnilda the Magnificent places a curse on Princess Aurora during Sleeping Beauty: Rise and Shine at NKU
Magnilda the Magnificent places a curse on Princess Aurora during Sleeping Beauty: Rise and Shine at NKU

After intermission, the projections (Jo Sanburg), costumes (Cat Schmeal-Swope), and set (Tyler Gabbard) give us steampunk vibes. It’s easy to see it’s going to be a different kind of princess story from the start.

Oldham returns to narrate our story with new mannerisms and quirks, but brings the same charisma and comedy we love.

We learn that our favorite princesses, who are only babies at this point, are cared for by fairy godmothers. King Charles (Jeremiah Jackson) and Queen Genevieve (Elliet Malatesta) call for the fairy godmothers to present the princesses. They do so in pageant fashion, except we learn one is missing: princess Aurora. 

The other fairy godmothers explain Aurora never sleeps and that her fairy godmother (Chloe Hedrick) was up all night with her. After she finally enters, she laments about receiving no help before abandoning the baby.

When she returns, she’s thrown off her robes and hat, revealing flashy velvet pants and cape. She places a curse on the baby that she will sleep forever after touching a spindle after turning 18. She’s completed her transformation to Magnilda the Magnificent at this point, and we’ll surely see her again.

Not Your Typical Princess

When baby Aurora grows up, she informs us she prefers to go by Rory instead. Rory (Hailey Watson) brings us “Disney Princess” energy with an independent girl attitude and a healthy amount of social awkwardness. All she wants is to be herself, live her best life, and have friends while she’s at it, but she’s struggling with the friends part.

When she kisses her frog and finds her prince has so much in common with her, we see a cute spark, but she still wants to fit in with her fellow princesses. When Rory doubts herself and tries to be more like the other princesses, that’s when things go wrong.

Rory sings about wanting to be included next to a spindle during Sleeping Beauty: Rise and Shine
Rory sings about wanting to be included next to a spindle during Sleeping Beauty: Rise and Shine

While true love’s kiss may break the spell, the prince doesn’t save the day in this story. If you’re looking for a story where the princess grabs the sword and fights for herself and her friends, look no further.

The Bottom Line (TLDR)

With a total run time of about 190 minutes including the intermission after the first 90 minutes, the full show may be long for very young children to sit through. However, I’d encourage you to bring your fairytale fans out for the familiar characters, fun costumes and choreography, and an empowering message about being true to yourself and being kind to others. 

Tickets to The Princess Plays at NKU

NKU SOTA’s The Princess Plays runs through April 2 at the NKU Corbett Theatre. Get your tickets here