Reviewed by Travis Michael Holder
It isn't unusual for a family-friendly musical to be entertaining for adults in a peripheral way, but although this one is fanciful and stylized enough to captivate the kiddies, it's also intelligent, witty, and sophisticated enough for adults. You might even want to be greedy this time and leave the little ones with a babysitter. Based on a simple little fable meant to teach children how to fight for their dreams, the clever book and lyrics by Karen Hardcastle, coupled with a gloriously hummable score by David O, even makes points with those of us clawing our way through Edvard Munch-ian midlife crisis.
Under the spirited direction of David Mowers, an infectious ensemble brings Hardcastle's characters to life, led by a wonderfully warm and endearingly infectious Elizabeth Tobias in the title role. Princess Atalanta makes a deal with her father to try to whip her throng of potential husbands in a footrace so she might avoid marrying the man of daddy's choice and, as a handful of those suitors, the delightfully silly Tom Beyer transforms with the ease of Plastic Man from one outlandish lothario loser to another. Deb Snyder is hilarious as Atalanta's dominatrix of a nanny, as are Lori Scarlett as her sheepish best friend and Guerin Barry as the pushover King. Peter Musante steals the show as Young John from the Town, the sweet groundling who vies for Atalanta's love by competing in the race alongside Beyer's one-man legion of competitors. Although all these actors are blessed with effervescent personality and big voices that suitably honor the music of O, the contagiously lovable performance of Musante-half Jerry Orbach, half Buster Keaton-emerges as a clear candidate for a future in musical theatre.
This is a lovely production, played with breakneck energy on Darren Jinks and Daniel Nussbaum's rustic fairy tale set and beautifully lit by Don Luce. Composer O doubles as musical director and keyboardist, leading a sprightly band called the Savages of Tartooga. Everything about this presentation is enchanting, making it impossible for anyone to leave the theatre as cantankerous as when he or she came in.