‘Little Prince’ to land on Allentown stage
“The Little Prince,” with actors and puppeteers sharing the stage, will be presented in the “Family Series: Live Musical Theatre,” 2 p.m. April 29, Miller Symphony Hall, Allentown.
The Antione de St. Exupery classic children’s book about a pilot whose plane crashes in the Sahara Desert and gains insight into love, loss and laughter through the eyes of The Little Prince, is brought to the stage by Swazzle, a Glendale, Calif.,-based puppet company founded in 2004 by twin brothers Sean and Patrick Johnson.
“It’s a moving and emotional book,” says Sean Johnson in a phone interview. “It’s a lot like poetry so you have to try to bring the meaning by the way you are saying the words.”
The novella, one of the most beloved books of all time was written in 1943 and has sold more than 80 million copies in more than 200 languages, and was adapted for the stage by Rick Cummins and John Scoullar, with incidental music composed by Cummins.
The show invites audiences to experience the wonderment of childhood as The Little Prince transports the audience to exotic worlds and introduces them to whimsical characters. There’s a bombastic king, a talking rose and a cheerful fox who is eager to be domesticated.
“It’s a book that changes every time you read it. It’s about the power of childhood and how children learn from adults, but more importantly how adults can learn from children,” Sean Johnson says.
The book is based on St. Exupery’s life as an aviator prior to and during World War II and his relationship with his wife, Consuelo. In the storyline, she is represented by a rose.
The stage adaptation is produced in association with Emmy Award-winning puppet designer, Michael Schupbach and Monkey Boy Productions, puppet builders for the West End London production of “Avenue Q” and the Broadway production and tour of “Little Shop of Horrors.”
“It kind of came as a little serpentine route,” says Sean Johnson of the production process. “There were two fantastic companies on the East Coast who had produced this show and our agent came to us to try to get a West Coast tour together.
“Since they were all on the East Coast, it wasn’t really feasible. They presented the idea to us again and after reading the book we fell in love with it. Sitting down and actually falling in love with the story is what got me so excited to do this show,” Sean Johnson says.
“We created all the puppets from scratch. It was a big part of the exciting challenge to take a stab at some iconic characters.
“This show is small and large at the same time. It’s an intimate story but as big as the universe,” says Sean Johnson.
“Children should be exposed to live theater as early as possible to give them that love for the theater. I would suggest five and up would be most appropriate for this show.
“It’s really geared for the very young all the way up. They all enjoy it on different levels. It’s entertaining and acceptable for children and has a strong emotional pull for the adults,” Sean Johnson says.
The most iconic line from “The Little Prince” book is: “It is only with heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.”
Says Sean Johnson, “On the page the story is perfect. But I feel like the more you add to the beauty and simplicity of the story, the more you take away from it. So we did what we needed to do so the story stood on its own merits.”
A pre-show activity for children begins at 12:30 p.m. April 29 in the Rodale Community Room, Miller Symphony Hall.
Tickets: Miller Symphony Hall Box Office, 23 N. Sixth St., Allentown; allentownsymphony.org; 610-432-6715