THEATER REVIEW -- CCTC/HJT’s ‘Princess and The Pea’ A Delightful Twist On Classic Fairy Tale

by Amy F Tagliaferri
Mae Dower, Maureen O’Neill and Phoebe Schuessler as Emilia, Prin and Juliette.  BOB TUCKER/FOCALPOINT STUDIO PHOTO Mae Dower, Maureen O’Neill and Phoebe Schuessler as Emilia, Prin and Juliette. BOB TUCKER/FOCALPOINT STUDIO PHOTO

“When time is nigh and Francis comes of age. Heed these words, wise and sage.

Harmonious music will be played, and glorious union shall be made, ‘

Tween prince and princess happiness shall be. Only with the lass that feels the pea.”

Playwright Kristen Stewart took the fairy tale of the princess and the pea and gave it a delightful spin in her new comedy of the same name.

The above words were the prophecy young Prince Francis has heard all his life. He was destined to be with a young lass who was sensitive to the teeniest, tiniest legume. No chance for true love, no chance to live a life he chose, no, it was all mapped out for him. The King and Queen started preparing for its fulfillment as soon as Francis’s 18th birthday drew near. Mattresses were piled up, food was planned and prepared, and excitement was building for the fulfillment of the “prophecy!” The classic fairy tale of a prince who finds his princess in the most bizarre manner ends in proper fairytale fashion with the two living happily ever after. How did Stewart imagine their ending?

The Cape Cod Theatre Company/Harwich Junior Theatre’s production is not only captivating, it’s filled with lessons for young people questioning their path. The cast of Cape theater veterans alongside talented newcomers is fantastic. Violet Hellstrom as Francis is a bundle of energy who had the audience pulling for the prince and his dream right from the get-go. The King and Queen (Bob Williamson and Connie Chan) were hilarious as the parents who couldn’t see that their son only deserved what they had achieved. Francis meets Prin (Maureen O’Neill) when the young girl turns up at the castle in search of a job as a singer/songwriter. O’Neill captures the precocious Prin perfectly. She has no idea Francis is the Prince and the two become fast friends.

Edward Donovan shone in his role as Chef Paolo. In fact I think this was one of his finest performances. The three chambermaids (Janie Newton, Addison Wilda and Emily Murray) will have children (and adults) roaring with laughter. If you know anything about Stewart’s background (she’s also a professional circus clown) you won’t be surprised that she included slapstick and physical comedy in her script. The three chambermaids hit every mark effortlessly! Laughter rolled through the theater.

Fionn Pina Parker composed the original music and with Ella Froeschner played the notes off to the side of the stage on musical instruments, including the very comical sound effects. They were great.

Phoebe Schuessler and Mae Dower will make you recall the W.C. Fields quote that he would “never work with animals or children” because they always steal the show. These young actors, as Chef Paolo’s children Juliette and Emilia, did indeed steal the show! We loved them, and they were so good in their pivotal roles.

Director Mary Arnault (one of my favorites!) met the challenge of a first-time script with panache. It’s a fabulous production. Andrew Arnault’s set design has the perfect fairytale essence to it. Robin McLaughlin’s detailed costumes were the frosting on the cake to the show. On the subject of cake, we loved Mary Beth Travis’s collection of props, too. Technical director Matt Kohler designed the lighting as well. Handling all those levels backstage were stage manager Laura Froeschner and light board operator Alexander D. Ingraham. Contributing to the production were Parker (musical director), Julia Violet (additional lyrics) and of course the theater’s producing artistic director Jenn Pina.

Stewart told me she wrote the script many years ago and was thrilled to see it performed. The fact that it was relevant then and is still so relevant today is tremendous. There is not anything political or controversial about pursuing your dreams, is there? The show is perfect for families. It’s about an hour and a half with a 10-minute intermission.