Production photos by: Michael Wharley
After enjoying productions of Andrew Lippa’s musicals The Wild Party and Big Fish, I was super excited when another one of his musicals popped up on my radar. A Little Princess is based on the novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett which follows Sara Crewe who is sent away from her home in Africa to a boarding school in London where she is made an outcast by the headmistress Miss Minchin. Think of Miss Minchin as like Miss Hannigan from Annie but a lot more racist. At the school, Sara befriends an orphan named Becky and both of them rely on each other and the other girls at their boarding school to overcome Miss Minchin to prove that all little girls can be princesses regardless of their backgrounds. This production was directed by Arlene Phillips with Lippa conducting this performance as well as providing the music to Brian Crawley’s lyrics and book. And while this show is a good and family friendly musical, it’s not the greatest.
The important thing about this show is that the majority of principals in the cast are children. Leading the cast is Jasmine Sakyiama as Sara, who really is a star in the making. Not only does she have a wonderful voice, evident in two numbers in Act One – Live Out Loud and Soldier On, but she has a set of acting pipes to match. She also had wonderful chemistry with Jasmine Nituan as Becky, who was just as pleasant to watch. The rest of the kids in the cast were all just as wonderful to watch, each of them having their moment in the sun throughout the show. Rounding out the adult principals were a wealth of West End talent. I’ve been wanting to see Danny Mac in a musical for ages and he did not disappoint as Captain Crewe, Sara’s dad. Also in the adult cast were Alexia Khadime and Olivier Award winners Adam J Bernard and Rebecca Trehearn, who all had lovely solos, but I do feel Rebecca was very much underused considering how brilliant she is. The role of Miss Minchin was played by Sherlock and Safe actress Amanda Abbington, who is making her musical debut. She is a fantastic actress but I feel she was perhaps a tad miscast in this. I’m not sure if it was her acting choices or, maybe the nerves, but I felt her Miss Minchin never reaches the boiling point. It worked in the first act that Miss Minchin was a bit fed up of taking care of all those children (I certainly would be) but in the second act, it felt a bit repetitive.
To be frank, I think act 2 lets down the show overall. There were a couple of moments where loose ends seemed to be tied up very quickly and, kind of, glossed over. There is a whole number about how great Timbuktu is which goes on for about five minutes, but there’s no real closure for Miss Minchin and her sister Miss Amelia. There was also a very bizarre interlude that went on for two minutes during the show where nothing happened. There’s also a moment where Sara snaps at Becky for no real explanation which I thought was a pointless addition. And on top of this, there were a few slightly awkward pauses on stage due to (what we thought was) the sound effects playing up.
Overall, I did think it was an enjoyable and family friendly show. I do think it needs a bit more structure before becoming a full fledged production. If the producers do decide to take it the show further, I hope they continue to use PJ McEvoy’s incredible atmosphere creating projections.
Until next time,