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Fiddlehead Theatre - "A Little Princess" - Broadway Quality at the Strand in Dorchester

A Little Princess, at the Strand Theatre through December 8, 2013 is another excellent offering from The Fiddlehead Theatre - Broadway quality.  The professional quality of the musical befits the growing caliber of the Strand under the City of Boston's restoration program.  A treat for residents from throughout the City and beyond, this musical is a "can't miss" for the 2013 holiday season.

Full Performance Schedule (click here)

A Musical for Everyone - Young and Mature

"I expected to find community theater at the Strand. This is Broadway." That was the consensus of almost everybody I spoke with at the opening night of Fiddlehead Theatre's production of "A Little Princess."

Fiddlehead Theatre Presents: A Little PrincessBeing a child at heart, and finding the time close to the holiday season, I couldn't lose the thought that "A Little Princess" was "the Nutcracker" re-imagined but in a profoundly different way.  In "The Nutcracker," the illusion of a plot is a framework for displaying the talents of the dancers.

In "A Little Princess," the plot is real and the drama contrasts the father and daughter, never before separated, as they each transit their own heart wrenching life journeys. Song and dance provide the depth, emotion and fanciful flight that leads the princess's Father on a journey far from their beloved Africa and which sends her to a boarding school in England.

Sarah Crewe, played by Sirena Albalian, is not often referred to as "the Little Princess," but her manners, demeanor and vision of the world place her in that roll.  She speaks often of following her heart and letting laughter be her guide. She thinks of herself as a princess, which, in her mind, affords her a loving and egalitarian relationship with everyone she meets. 

Her immediate love and respect for Miss Minchin's indentured servant girl, Becka,  (Becky played by Carly Kastel) establishes a life-saving relationship for Sarah when her fortunes cast her from little rich girl to servant living in the attic without heat or sufficient clothing to keep her warm.

Sarah is the eternal flame, never faltering from her faithful view of life until that moment when she can't imagine surviving another day, and she destroys one of the most important ties she has with her father. For this writer, Sarah's total loss of faith in living was devastating. 

Large Cast and Support Players

Fiddlehead Theatre Presents: A Little PrincessA Little Princess sports a large cast - 14 actors - of which half are teenagers.  Of similar size are the dancers (15) and the live orchestra (13).

In addition, the energy, flow and excitement of the set changes, carried out quickly and effortlessly, enhance the production.  Large colorful banners, hanging from the ceiling, form an integral part of the magic - swishing about as if caught by the wind.

Miss Minchin (played by Shana Dirik) is the epitome of evil, as is her youthful counterpart, Lavinia, (played by Tori Heinlein).  Most of the school children are malleable, mean when it suits them and meltingly sweet when they are around Sarah. 

The plot's tension operates at two levels: with the children and with the adults.  Rodger (an usher from Dedham) liked how the production offers a view of a child's world but does not stay there. "There is space for the same issues to be worked out at an adult level, too."

Marsha from Minnesota commented:  "All the music, dancing and the facial expressions - The kids were really into their roles."

So impressive is the multi-racial makeup of the cast and dancers.  Lighter skins, darker skins and stage lighting across the spectrum of the rainbow - all work to declare a world of inclusion, equality, acceptance and love for all. 

Pasko's solo, supported by the floating and crying sound of a reed instrument, brought me to tears.  Jared Dixon has the voice of a tenor angel.  Twenty-five (25) songs comprise the musical.  All of them offer a poetically extended language for saying what words might choose to communicate in two or three.  "Don't leave me, Good bye, I love you."

A reporter from the Bay State Banner (it was press night) assessed the evening holistically.  "The whole picture is here.  The Strand Theatre is now capable of hosting professional level theater because of its upgrades – lighting and sound."  Dave from West Roxbury echoed the same.  "The whole package is what impressed me - the theater, the restoration, the stage craft and the actors and actresses."

Mic'ing the young singers was an essential requirement, without which they would not have been able to project sufficiently.  The lighting was handled well. After one memorable dance, the entire stage was back lit in red. In another, the dancers are draped in shadows, their faces obscured, as if they are dancing from very far away.

Marie from Dorchester with her two small children:  "They were mesmerized."

Cast Party at Restaurant Laura

At the cast party, held at Restaurant Laura, not a seat remained open.  At every table, you could identify the characters who, on stage, were likable or not but in this setting had converted to ordinary people, calmly enjoying the company of their actor comrades. 

Lavinia and Sarah were sitting together.  "Lavinia (Tori Heinlein), you were so evil throughout the entire production. How did you change so quickly at the end?  Her answer was funny and consistent with the basic tenet of the musical:  "A change of heart." 

Sarah (Sirena Albalian) said: "No, I've never had voice lessons, just a little bit of dance." She is clearly a young lady of supreme natural talent. 

Close to the buffet bar was Miss Minchin (Shana Dirik) barely looking the role of a head mistress.  "If I don't get some food soon," she announced, "I'm going to faint."  (Well, maybe she did sound a little like her character.)

"Where is he?"  Members of the cast were quick to point out Devonish-Daye, a Boston fire fighter from Alston and a talented singer and dancer. "Thank you so much for coming to see the show," he said.  "I look forward to doing more." 

When Producing Artistic Director, Meg Fofonoff, walked in, all eyes turned.  "There she is," from members of the cast, offering their profound respect for her capabilities and for her ability to pull off such a top-notch show.

Standing at a table close to the front door, a young actress looked as if she were starving. "Did you like it?" she wanted to know, soaking up every bit of praise coming her way. "I loved it," I said. Her eyes grew bigger.  "Did you really?"  I gave her a great big hug.

If for no other reasons, come to support the kids, the cast, the crew and the world of art growing in Uphams Corner.

Uphams Corner, the Strand Theatre and the City of Boston are grateful to Fiddlehead Theatre for their quality productions including the most recent, "Ragtime." We look forward to more.

Fiddlehead Theatre Presents: A Little Princess

Full Performance Schedule.

For tickets, contact the Fiddlehead Theatre at their website:  http://www.fiddleheadtheatre.com/

Thursday, November 21, 7:30 pm

Friday, November 22, 8:00 pm

Saturday, November 23,
2:00 pm AND 8:00 pm

Sunday, November 24, 2:00 pm
Friday, November 29, 8:00 pm  *Post-performance talk back with Composer Andrew Lippa

Saturday, November 30,
2:00 pm AND 8:00 pm

Sunday, December 1, 2:00 pm
Thursday, December 5, 7:30 pm

Friday, December 6, 8:00 pm
*NEW!  Post-performance talk back with Playwright Brian Crawley

Saturday, December 7,
2:00 pm AND 8:00 pm

Sunday, December 8, 2:00 pm

Posted: November 25, 2013     Nancy J Conrad

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