Dallas Children's Theater
Director and Choreographer – Nancy Schaeffer
Music Director – Vonda Bowling
Lighting Designer – Aaron Johansen
Scenic, Video and Properties Designer – H. Bart McGeehon
Costume Designer – Lyle Huchton
Sound Designer – Douglass Burks
Rapunzel – Erika Larsen
Socrates – Karl Schaeffer
Lady Za Za – M. Denise Lee
Sir Roderick – Zak Reynolds
Edgar – Jason Robert Villarreal
Gypsy Woman – Noelle Stanley
Photographer: Karen Almond
Reviewed Performance 9/20/2014
Reviewed by Jeremy William Osborne, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
It's not Grimm but it’s not Disney either. Rapunzel at Dallas Children's Theater is a simple, fun and familiar tale of the damsel trapped in the tower. An artistic triumph, the “very hairy fairy tale” will delight audiences of all ages.
Without a blinded prince or twin babies born, and certainly no swinging from her hair, Rapunzel! Rapunzel! tells the tale of a girl locked in a tower, her stepmother's plan to have her miss her eighteen birthday, lose her rights to the crown, and make the stepmother queen. With the help of a passing knight and his faithful hairdresser friend, each out on their own quest for glory and satisfaction, Rapunzel is freed from her captivity and all is right in the world once more.
Dallas Children's Theater sets a high bar for quality in their shows and Rapunzel! Rapunzel! is a shining example of the expert craftspeople they employ. H. Bart McGeehon's simple but effective video displays are excellent additions to the show, helping define scenes with a title card. His set construction is outstanding. A triple step stage, giving three distinct performance levels, gives great opportunities for Nancy Schaeffer to create wonderful tableaus with the actors. His impressive paper craft skills also create the appearance of fine stonework on the steps and tower.
Lyle Huchton's costume design is magnificent. From the dragon's scaled body suit to the gypsy woman's multi-patterned peasant dress and Lady Za Za's large hoop skirt, every costume piece is completely handmade by Huchton and each one is perfect. Dragon Socrates is a great golden-brown color with individually sewn on scales covering his abdomen and a few glued to his chin, claws on his feet and hands, with an exposed human face for ease of performance. Wigs are an important piece in the musical, including Rapunzel’s fine blonde wig with extreme extensions and Lady Za Za’s increasingly intricate styles throughout the show. A princess cone hat is even lifted to reveal a full beehive hairdo. It's clear a lot of hard work and care went into each costume piece. It's great to see this much detail put into what can otherwise be an overlooked piece of the show.
Lighting design is great for this show. Aaron Johansen uses color well to set the mood. The deep, dank, dreary woods are appropriately dark and creepy without being too scary, while Rapunzel's tower at the edge of the woods is cheerfully lit. Most impressive is the use of Roderick's silhouette to represent Rapunzel's dream fellow, while she sings “Oh, I Wish.”
Vonda Bowling has done well preparing the actors for a performance with pre-recorded music. Nobody falls behind, although Socrates has a rushed moment between dialogue and singing going into “A Very Hairy Fairy Tale – Finale.” The style for most of the songs in the musical is reminiscent of Disney's Enchanted. However, Lady Za Za, Edgar and the “Dryer Lady” also sing a country music number in “It's All About Me.” It's fun but such a departure from the rest of the music it almost doesn't fit with the show. Sound design for this production is basic. The music and actors’ voices are balanced well so that none are fighting be heard.
The only blemish on the “very hairy fairy tale” comes in the first act which is overly wordy and bores many of the children. At the reviewed performance, several looked ready for a nap as intermission began. The second act is livelier with a game of “Keep Away” involving Roderick, Edgar, the Gypsy Woman, and Lady Za Za, and also an epic chase scene through the audience. The children respond well, laughing and pointing out directions as the trio follows Lady Za Za.
Erika Larsen is the eponymous Rapunzel. She’s confined for most of the show in a tiny area on the tower but it's not much of an obstacle for her acting. She has a beautiful voice which delivers exquisitely in songs like “Oh, I Wish” and “What a Very Lovely Day.”
Karl Schaeffer’s Socrates is superb, from his crawling hand motions as he moves to his gentle, caring personality. Using a nasally English accent, Schaeffer represents the scholarly Socrates and not the frightful, fire-breathing menace as dragons are commonly portrayed.
Playing Sir Roderick and Edgar, Zak Reynolds and Jason Robert Villarreal are a dynamic duo of adventurers. Zak Reynolds is able to leave behind childish mannerisms from previous Dallas Children's Theater shows and confidently strides on to the stage as the noble knight. He stands tall and speaks boldly. On the other hand, Villarreal, as the celebrated hairdresser Edgar, is light-hearted with airy gestures and a lesser assertive voice. The two make quite a team.
The mysterious Gypsy Woman is an obvious outsider from the kingdom. Where everyone else has either a standard American accent or some form of English, Noelle Stanley employs a New York City dialect. Playing a stereotypical Jewish woman type, Stanley provides comedy and an important plot device.
M. Denise Lee glides flippantly across the stage as Lady Za Za. Although an opportunity to spoof Lady Gaga was missed, she does briefly mention being “born this way.” Lee's portrayal is splendidly sinister. She's taller than the other actors and uses her height to intimidate others well. When Lady Za Za is bested by the rest of the characters, her pouting and foot stomping easily identifies with a petulant child who does not get his or her way.
Parents, when you need a break from the Tangled or Frozen DVD, Dallas Children's Theater has the cure. Audiences of all ages are sure to have a good time with Rapunzel! Rapunzel!, A very hairy fairy tale.
RAPUNZEL! RAPUNZEL! A VERY HAIRY FAIRY TALE
Dallas Children's Theater
Rosewood Center for Family Arts
5938 Skillman Street
Dallas, TX 75231
Runs through October 26th
Saturday and Sunday at 1:30 pm and 4:30 pm. An additional performance is on Friday, September 26th at 7:30 pm. There is no performance on Saturday, October 4th at 4:30 pm.
Tickets range from $15.00 to $28.00, depending on day and seating, with senior discounts for 1:30 pm performances and the Friday performance.
For tickets and information, go to www.dct.org.