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Paulanne Simmons

"The Little Prince" Is a Royal Treat


"The Little Prince"
Directed by Susan D. Atkinson
The New Victory Theater
209 West 42nd Street
Opened Oct. 1, 2011
Saturday & Sunday at 12pm and 5pm, Oct. 14 at 7pm
Closes Oct. 16
Tickets: $38-$14 www.newvictory.org
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons Oct. 2, 2011

Little Prince puppet, Leila Ghaznavi and Lenny Haas. Photo by Alexsey Photography.
"The Little Prince," published in 1943, is the best-known work of French pilot, poet and writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery. It has been translated into over 190 languages and has sold more than 80 million copies worldwide. "The Little Prince" has also been turned into a Lerner and Loewe film musical and a 3-part symphony by Russian operatic composer Lev Knipper. All of which is quite impressive when you consider that it is ostensibly a children’s story.

Now Bristol Riverside Theatre has added another element to the timeless story of a young boy and a grown man stranded in the desert: life-size puppets by Monkey Boy Productions. With a stage adaptation by Rick Cumins and the recently deceased John Scoullar, and direction by Susan D. Atkinson, "The Little Prince" is sure to delight both children and the adults they bring to The New Victory Theater.

Tom Gleason’s set (a big circular sandbox with a circular screen behind it for interplanetary projections) allows the show to have both an earthly and an otherworldly presence. This impression is underlined by having the aviator played by a live actor, Leonard C. Haas, while all the other characters are puppets. This includes the not only the Little Prince, but also the various men he meets on his journey to other planets before he lands on earth, the beloved rose he left on his native planet and the fox he tames on earth,

Haas and the puppets have all the poignancy and poetry that infuse the tender story. The aviator is all business, only concerned with fixing his plane so he can return home. But gradually the Little Prince wins him over. He learns the value of friendship, responsibility and loyalty. Most importantly, he learns about love and the pain that often comes with it.

There’s just enough humor in "The Little Prince" to keep the youngsters giggling (and they get all the jokes). But by the end there are more than a few adult wiping their eyes while the kids are climbing down from their booster seats.

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