Monday, April 25, 2016

The Story: "The Light Princess"

Cover of the 1890 edition.
Cover of the 1962 edition.
Cover of the 2016 edition.
The Theatre for Young Audiences series concludes with the delightful musical, The Light Princess (Julianne Argyros Stage, May 20-June 5, 2016), adapted from an original fairytale by George MacDonald. Read on to learn more about the story itself.

Two Wisemen begin to tell a story set a very long time ago—but they argue and cannot decide how to begin their tale. The King and Queen in the story enter and get the Wisemen back on track.

Our story begins once upon a time. A young King and Queen are happy and in love, until they discover that they cannot have children. They seek the help of the Queen’s sister, a Witch who also is in love with the King. She agrees to help, for a price. The King and Queen rejoice over the arrival of a baby daughter, until they discover that she has no gravity, either physical or emotional. The Princess not only floats, she can’t feel serious emotions like fear, sadness, or love—and if she can’t find her gravity by her 16th birthday, the Witch will take over the kingdom.

As the Princess grows up, what she loves more than anything is to swim in the lake, for that is the one place she has weight. But the Wisemen, her guardians and tutors, don’t have time to swim with her. The Princess’ 16th birthday is fast approaching, and the Wisemen are busy coming up with ideas to help her find her gravity. Alas, the Princess’ attempts to cry all end in laughter… because, as the Queen points out, love, not tears, is what allows us to feel weighty emotions. However, the Princess has never fallen in love. Over the Queen’s objections, the King and Wisemen decide to hold a Suitor Competition to find the Princess a husband.

Meanwhile, a young Prince (in disguise as a musician) wanders through the forest, trying in vain to write a love song. He convinces the Witch to let him stay with her. While playing his guitar on the shore of the lake, he hears the Princess splashing and jumps in to save her. She, of course, did not need to be saved, and demands that he put her back in the lake. He jumps in with her—the first time in her life that she has experienced falling. It’s amazing. She teaches him to play Marco Polo, and he flies her back to her balcony for the night. He has fallen in love.

The King and the Witch are both alarmed to hear of the meeting. The King, determined to find a suitable husband for the Princess, brings in a series of suitors with alarming proposals to keep her weighted down. The Queen is so upset by the King’s single-minded pursuit of a son-in-law that they quarrel, and she returns the key to his heart. Meanwhile, the Witch, determined to keep the Princess from falling in love, bewitches the Prince and sets him to work digging a hole at the bottom of the Princess’ lake, causing all the water to drain out.

The Princess is furious when she finds out who is causing the lake to drain away. To make amends, the Prince offers to plug the hole with his own body, knowing that he will drown as soon as the water closes over his head. He asks the Princess to wait with him as the water rises. She does not want to speak to him, but is eventually persuaded to give the Prince a kiss before he dies. He sings his first love song as the waters rise above his head. The Princess saves the drowning Prince from the lake and revives him. For the first time in her life, she cries and her tears refill the lake. The curse is broken and the Princess falls to the ground with her gravity restored.

The Witch returns to find that her power is gone. The King wishes to punish the Witch, but the Princess intervenes—the Witch, too, she says, just needs to be taught how to love. In the end, the King and Queen reconcile, the Wisemen retire and the Princess, with her musician Prince at her side, becomes her father’s chief advisor. A happy ending for all!

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