nytheatre.com review by Stephen Speights
August 11, 2006
As the Storyteller (Jenn Wehrung) welcomes the eager audience of Long Over'Do's delightful production of Rapunzel, you're hard-pressed to find a single cynic in the place. Everyone at this opening night performance (okay, so it's five in the afternoon) is primed to be charmed by what's to come, and it's pretty clear from the get-go that we are going to be.
Nope, the only skeptic at the theatre this afternoon is onstage—Jamie, the smart-alecky half of the brother/sister duo at the heart of, and played with ten-year-old awesome goofiness by Raum-Aron. From the moment our Storyteller (and stand-in Cat-in-the-Hat babysitter) embarks on her bedtime story of Rapunzel, Jamie's out to discredit it. Why is it a-l-w-a-y-s a damsel in distress? Why is it a-l-w-a-y-s a witch? Why is it a-l-w-a-y-s a prince? It's when the good-natured babysitter, as effortless an improviser as the talented Wehrung who plays her, incorporates Jamie's suggestions for improving the story, that this cleverly conceived musical takes off.
Kudos to Karen Rousso (collaborator on book and lyrics, and director to boot) and her collaborators (Judy Dulberg, Kerry Wolf and Holley Bartlett) for changing our hero from a prince to an artist, and in doing so separating "character" from "privilege"—this is just one of the intelligent choices made by the authors in a script that parents will be thrilled for their children to absorb. The virtues of knowledge, bravery, compassion, and love are gingerly peppered throughout Rapunzel, particularly in its well-written musical numbers, and surrounded by so much fun that they go down easily.
Long Over'Do knows its audience, and kids and parents alike will love the performances of this excellent cast. Kristina Teschner is a birdsong delight as Rapunzel, and gets the best running gag, pulling people up into the tower with her outrageous hair (wig designed by Albert Walsh, whose costumes are across-the-board terrific). Likeable Michael Padgett shows range (and a strong set of pipes) as "the Artist formerly known as the Prince." And the kids are great: Raum-Aron stops the show with a relentlessly mocking monologue on the monologue convention, and Katy Apostolico, as his younger sister, is downright adorable.
And D'Jamin Bartlett plays the witch! D'Jamin Bartlett! A Little Night Music! "The Miller's Son"! Watching this accomplished pro chew through the role of the villainess, watching her lustily vamp her way downstage, the enormous braid she has chopped off her ward transformed into a feather boa—folks, that's the kind of Fringe magic that makes you believe that fairy tales do come true.