My daughter and I were not quite sure what to expect. This Rapunzel draws on the original tale of the princess with the extreme hair imprisoned in a tower but in a comic retelling that incorporates many modern references. The cast members give high-energy performances throughout to original upbeat music, each song styled to represent a different genre of popular music. The theatre roars with laughter on occasion.
There are poignant places, too. The most so for me is when Rapunzel names her favorite princesses and, after mentioning Princess Leia, remains still. The music briefly pauses as Rapunzel bows her head. It’s an unforgettable moment.
We do get the basic story of the beautiful princess locked in a tower by her stepmother. Here the wicked Lady Za Za plans to claim the crown as her own. Rapunzel is guarded by a goofy but wise Socrates the Dragon, who also acts as her tutor. The noble Sir Roderick and his funny sidekick Edgar, who is a hairstylist, decide to set out on a quest worthy of their talents. Sir Roderick wants to rescue a princess and Edgar wants to find the most beautiful head of hair in all the land. Together, the lifelong friends enter the dark forest and embark on their adventure. While they are in the forest, they meet a dirty, and apparently smelly, Gypsy Woman, whose magical jewel was stolen from her by Lady Za Za. Sir Roderick and Edgar locate Rapunzel in her tower and manage to rescue her and help her return to the castle just in time to thwart Lady Za Za’s plan.
Alyssa Gardner is stellar as this strong, independent Rapunzel. She is not powerless in her tower, completely dependent upon a male savior. In fact, she comes up with the plan they use to rescue her from the tower. When Gardner sings, her voice fills the theatre. Her songs also have some rather funny lines, and she does not miss a beat. Cara Serber’s portrayal of Lady Za Za is superb. She is mean and has an evil plan, but is simultaneously witty and charming. Additionally, the comedic dynamic between James Chandler as Sir Roderick and Kyle Igneczi as Edgar never seems forced or artificial. They truly feel like two friends who are on a quest.
The stage design is charming and inviting. Rapunzel’s tower sits atop two huge books of fairy tales to the left of the stage. The spooky forest is composed of large, moveable tree trunks standing in front of the brightly painted backdrop, which bears the image of the castle in the distance. Large fairy tale books are scattered throughout the set, and the text of our tale has been lightly painted on the tower and tree trunks, acting as constant reminders that we are in a fairy tale.
Alas all is not perfect in this land. The performance feels lacking somehow in the first act. The story line seems rushed, and many of the jokes do not resonate with the audience. However, the second half is full of laughs and energy, and the cast members find their groove. The most strikingly funny scene to me is when Sir Roderick and Socrates have a vogue-style “walk-off” instead of fighting over Rapunzel. The entire theatre lights up with laughter. This scene is one of many modernized elements in the performance which serve to give new relevance to a classic fairy tale.
This performance will be most enjoyable for younger children. And while it is children’s theater after all, there are plenty of jokes that the adults who accompany them will enjoy as well.