The thing about The Light Princess is that, although it’s a decent children’s story, the musical adaptation isn’t perfect – the music (Tori Amos) doesn’t have much of a ‘wow’ factor, and can be very repetitive, even by unassuming musical theatre standards. I wondered how a concert version, put on by Club 11 London (owned and operated by Darren Bell) and the Alex Parker Theatre Company, would work. I couldn’t put my finger on why it did work so well until some dedicated fans of the show filled me in on some details at the interval.
The details were so, well, detailed – these were people who knew every line of the show (a cast recording of the National Theatre production and a script can still, I think, be purchased online), but according to them, there were, to quote the late David Bowie, ch-ch-changes. Lines were added, removed, modified – this wasn’t a case of plonking the original score and script on stage without a set. Some efforts had been made to make the story accessible for anyone encountering the Tori Amos / Samuel Adamson adaptation for the first time. That’s how it should be, not leaving anyone behind.
More emphasis is placed on the lyrics and spoken dialogue, and it didn’t matter that Princess Althea (Rosalie Craig) wasn’t in any way ‘floating’ (the National Theatre production used ropes to create the idea of someone who rejected sadness as a child on the death of her mother, and in rejecting emotion, became both psychologically and physically weightless). But the orchestra were in fine form, gliding through the melodies with noticeably more verve and passion than the NT production – I saw it twice there, and would have gone a third time if they hadn’t sold out. I only went at all on the back of a one-star review from Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail – he is such a tasteless critic that generally speaking, a one-star from him means it’s a show worth checking out.
I was very impressed with Trevor Dion Nicholas’ portrayal of King Darius of Lagobel, taking on a very different role from the Genie in the Disney Corporation’s West End musical adaptation of Aladdin. Darius is not the type of character that is perennially joyful, playing to the gallery – there are miscellaneous affairs of state he must attend to, as well as making efforts to get his only remaining heir, Princess Althea, literally and figuratively back down to earth. Convincingly terrifying when asserting his kingship in the face of accusations from a borderline traitor, his commanding voice was an appropriate and definite stand out.
There were no weak links in the cast – the ensemble, effectively forming a choir – Sharif Afifi, Daniel Amity, Liberty Buckland, Francesca Lara Gordon, Howard Jenkins, Michael Larcombe, Francesca Leyland and Hannah Ponting – were sublime. I doubt there is enough commercial interest to mount another full production of The Light Princess in London – despite this improved concert version, it remains quite quirky. But it was nice to experience it again.
London lad, loving life and all that it has to offer.