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|The Light Princess|
|Basis||The Light Princess fairy tale by George MacDonald|
|Premiere||9 October 2013: Lyttleton Theatre, Royal National Theatre, London|
2018 London Concert
The Light Princess is a musical with music and lyrics by Tori Amos and a book by Samuel Adamson based on the Scottish fairy tale of the same name by George MacDonald.
The musical tells the story of a princess afflicted by a constant weightlessness, unable to get her feet on the ground, both literally and metaphorically, until she finds a love that brings her down to earth.
The musical premiered at the Royal National Theatre in London in 2013. The stage production featured actress Rosalie Craig as the titular character. The musical was generally well-received, enjoyed an extended run in the theatre, and released its cast recording in 2015.
In 2013, the National Theatre produced a musical staging of the story. The production was directed by Marianne Elliott, designed by Rae Smith, lighting designed by Paule Constable and choreographed by Stephen Hoggett.It was initially expected to premiere in London in April 2012, it was announced in October 2011 that the production would be delayed until later in the year.
The musical began previewing in the Lyttleton Theatre from 25 September 2013, with an official opening on 9 October starring Rosalie Craig in the titular role who was subsequently singled out as a stand-out performance. Craig was nominated for many awards, and ultimately won the Evening Standard's award for best actress in a musical. The choreography, lighting, set design, music (Amos) and other cast performances were also lauded and nominated for a range of awards.
The production completed its run on 2 February 2014. Amos stated that the production team had ambitions of bringing The Light Princess to American Broadway, but expressed worry that the original National Theatre production might not be commercial enough for the American audience.
On creating the musical, Amos stated:
"It wasn't commercial theater, so from the top down they (the National Theatre) said to us, do not dumb this down. You be brave, you be bold, you be confrontational. Sam and I said, well, this is a feminist fairy tale, and not everyone will be comfortable with it. It's not always going to make everyone feel warm and fuzzy. It brings up confrontations between teenagers and their parents, that would resonate in the 21st century [...] The Light Princess has to be something that kids can come see, because it is a story of a teenage girl. It might be a little dark for some. But we found that there were kids that were completely entranced. And even though sometimes it got scary, they stayed with the story."
Selected tracks from the musical is available for streaming from the National Theatre, including "My Fairy Story", "Althea", "Amphibiava" and "Better Than Good".
Another stage adaption was done to the fairy tale by a Massachusetts director, Emily C. A. Snyder.
On 1 July 2018 Alex Parker and Club 11 staged a concert performance of the musical at Cadogan Hall in London. It starred Rosalie Craig returning to the role of Althea, Craig's husband Hadley Fraser as Prince Digby, Trevor Dion Nicholas as King Darius, Gabrielle Brooks as Piper, Louis Maskell as Llewelyn, Norman Bowman as King Ignacio, Anna-Jane Casey as Sergeant at Arms, Laura Pitt-Pulford as Falconer and David Langham as Mr Flowers. Both Tori Amos and Samuel Anderson attended the concert who both joined in the rapturous standing ovation at the end of the performance.
In the middle of a desert lies the kingdom of Lagobel, which owes its wealth to gold buried in its native sands. The kind king and queen have two children, eldest son Alexander and daughter Althea. When the queen dies, the kingdom is plunged into a tearful sorrow, all except the princess Althea, who instead chooses to reject sadness, instead floating into the air, above emotion and responsibility, seemingly without any influence from gravitational forces. Her father descends into cold-heartedness, locking her in a tower with the orphan Piper.
East of Lagobel, across a vast wooded wilderness, lies Sealand, a kingdom rich in natural resources, most notably a healthy network of rivers. The queen dies mysteriously shortly after questioning the greedy king. The land dares not weep, fearing the king's wrath. The prince Digby, however, did not smile after the incident, adopting the moniker 'Solemn Prince of Sealand'. He grows up to be a proud and dutiful warrior.
The day of Digby's coming of age, Prince Alexander of Lagobel was killed by a Sealand assassin, and Sealand declares war on Lagobel, with sights aimed upon the vast riches of their Western neighbor. Upon the realization of Althea's impending ascent to the throne, the king of Lagobel urges her to take up her familial duty of leading Lagobel's army against the incoming siege from Sealand. Althea laughs off her father's requests, instead fleeing to the wilderness to find her own sanctuary. She comes across a secret lake, the source of Lagobel's limited water supply. She hears about the slaughter of the Lagobel army at the hands of the Sealand force.
At the lake she comes across Prince Digby, who teases her about her lack of gravity, and realizes the value of the lake upon which Lagobel depends for life. His conversation with Althea fills Digby with mirth, prompting his first smile since his childhood. He falls in love with Althea, and she for him, engaging in a joyous dance in the forest.
Back in Lagobel, rumors of the princess's actions in the forests fill the people with distrust with the throne. The king redoubles his efforts to return Althea to a normal state. He accepts the theory that making the princess cry will cure her. He tries arranging a marriage for her, in the hope that destroying her subsequent marriage or child will cause her to cry.
Althea escapes again to the lake, where she and Digby declare themselves queen and king of the lake, and consummate their love, conceiving a child. Digby asks Althea to return to the normal world with him, offering to build a house. Althea, preferring her watery home, asks Digby to stay. Digby heads toward Sealand, encountering his brother on the way. Digby tells Llewelyn he has killed the princess and they return to Sealand.
The king of Sealand learns of the life-giving lake and vows to dam it to choke the life out of Lagobel. Digby returns to the lake to destroy the dam, and is nearly killed. Althea witnesses this and cries for fear of his death. This returns her gravity. The two get married and live happily ever after, striking a peace between the kingdoms. Althea goes to university and becomes a marine biologist and appoints Piper Prime Minister.
The music was composed by Tori Amos.
The original cast recording features 30 original recordings by the cast plus three bonus tracks, including two performed by Amos.
The musical numbers are as follows:
The musical received mixed but generally positive reviews, with the majority of critics praising Craig's spectacular lead performance, the strong ensemble cast, the vivid and rich set design by Rae Smith, and the elaborate, imaginative choreography used to create the illusion of Althea floating in air. The script by Adamson and music by Amos, however, divided critics. Professional critic ratings of the musical ranged the full spectrum from 1 to 5 stars, though more often complimentary than not.
Many reviewers found the musical to be a fantastic and unusual fairytale with unafraid scope and smarts. The Independent gave it a 4-star review, calling it a "bewitchingly unusual evening walking on air".Time Out likewise gave it 4 stars, saying it was "a visual and technical tour de force with a title performance from Rosalie Craig that’ll blow your mind and melt your heart." Another 4 star review came from What's On Stage, calling it an "unusual and delightful surprise" with an excellent ensemble led by a Craig in "one of the most extraordinary, vocally resourceful and physically triumphant performances ever seen in musical theatre.". The Evening Standard gave 4 stars, finding the musical "worth the wait" and a showcase for Amos as an artist and songwriter, with a stunningly good performance by Craig and gorgeous set design by Smith. Metro likewise gave 4 stars, with splendid music by Amos and fantastic production, but ultimately being blown away by Craig as Althea, concluding with "a star is born." Simon Edge of The Daily Express gave the musical its best review, a perfect score of 5 stars, calling it a "feast for the eyes", with a "staggeringly good" lead performance by Craig, stirring and sweet music by Amos, and ultimately finding that "this bonkers but beautiful fantasy defies categorisation". Edge stated:
"Every so often you see something in the theatre so arresting, so unlike anything you’ve seen before, that you want to grab strangers in the street and tell them to book tickets [...] Bonkers, dazzling, lyrical, fun and sweet - Tori Amos's musical is a wonderful, unforgettable feast for the senses [...] All I know is I'd go again tomorrow, and again the day after that."
Other reviewers were mixed in their critiques, most often founding the musical too unfocused, its script overtly preachy for adults, and the music not memorable enough. The Telegraph gave a 3-star review, praising Craig's performance, but finding the narrative "preachy" and Amos' music lacking in standout numbers.London Theatre gave another 3 stars, calling the musical "visually ravishing" with a brilliant cast and occasionally haunting music by Amos, but overall deeming it an "honourable, interesting misfire". The Guardian's review gave the musical 2 stars, citing a lack of emotional punch, finding Amos' score sometimes bland, and Adamson's narrative too meandering. The Stage enjoyed the set production, the superb ensemble and Amos' rich music, but felt the story might fail to capture any specific audience group, being perhaps too complex for children and too earnest for adults. The Huffington Post concluded that its flaws "cannot dim the magic of The Light Princess." Financial Times gave a 3-star review, stating that cluttered content was weighing an otherwise "daring, beautiful and original" musical down. The Arts Desk gave 3 stars, citing more great choreography than real chemistry, not enjoying Amos' music and lyrics. Variety found fault with the music as well, stating a tendency to ramble, but called Craig's performance "career-making" and intense.
A cast album of the 2013 London production was released in October 2015 by Universal/Mercury Classics.The album will be produced by songwriter and composer Tori Amos, recorded during 2014 at different stops during her Unrepentant Geraldines Tour in support of her own album. Amos' tour team, including Mark Hawley and Marcel van Limbeek, engineered the cast album throughout the tour, having recorded the orchestra in April and met up with the different cast members "as they were available". It will contain all 33 tracks from the show and will also feature exclusive bonus tracks sung by Amos. Amos expressed she was happy to be able to give The Light Princess a cast recording under these terms, because so many theatre musicals no longer get an album release because of the expense and logistics involved.
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