This afternoon’s family Christmas treat was a trip to the Lyric Theatre to the matinee performance of The Little Prince musical.
Once upon a time there was a little prince who lived on a planet that was scarcely any bigger than himself, and who was in need of a friend. Once upon a time there was a pilot who was forced to land in the Sahara desert. Both set out on journeys of discovery finding friendship and wisdom along the way.
The plot follows two intersecting story lines. Pilot Antoine (played by Kare Conradi) decides to fly off on an adventure and ends up crashing his plane in a desert. The Little Prince (Niamh Perry) lives on an asteroid B612 with its three volcanoes (which need cleaned out), one rose, and where the sun rises and sets 44 times each (Earth) day. The Little Prince goes on an adventure too, visiting other asteroids, meeting adults, and ending up on Earth in the desert with the pilot.
The costumes are fabulous and sparkle against the set made up of enormous sheets of hanging lined paper onto which video and drawings are projected. It works well and integrates nicely with the show’s lighting.
Part allegory, part surreal, the plot is terribly complicated and hard to follow. On the way into the theatre, staff were handing out a free A4 sheet that summarised the storyline … perhaps a reaction to confusion among early audiences?
Foolishly, I didn’t read ahead while the house lights were up, and spent much of the first half squinting at the sheet to get some kind of hint about what was going on a couple of metres in front of me on the stage.
Sound was a problem, at least for me sitting in the third row. The slightly techno/rock score was much louder than the vocals, and there was barely any song in which it was possible to catch the full lyrics. Antoine was particularly hard to hear.
This is a problem in a musical which has no narration – other than the printed cheat sheet – to help explain the plot. Every now and again a deep bass note would make something in the rigging above resonate – there’s a frequency that needs EQed out to remove the distraction.
Written by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Le Petit Prince is the most read and most translated French book of the 20th century. This musical adaptation comes from the pens and keyboards of Nicholas Lloyd Webber (son of Andrew) and James D Reid, and Belfast’s Lyric Theatre is home to its first run.The Little Prince Musical "Welcome To B-612" by The Little Prince Musical
The music is very listenable to, but not sticky: I didn’t find myself humming any of the tunes on the way home. And at one point with a lot of singing about satellites, I half expected that a cover of Lena's Eurovision Song Contest winning Satellite might be just around the corner.
I won't be surprised if there are some tweaks to the score and direction before The Little Prince next escapes B612 and visits a stage in another city. In the meantime, I think I’ll be digging out our copy of the book and (finally) reading it to see what the story was meant to be about.
Update - Culture Northern Ireland's review.