By MIKE CHAIKEN
The cast of the St. Paul Performing Arts production of “A Little Princess” is clearly taken with the musical version of the classic children’s book.
The original book, written in 1905 by Frances Hodgson Burnett, was adapted into a stage musical by Andrew Lippa. Press materials from the school explain: “It’s the story of a little girl with a great big imagination. Separated from her father and the open-hearted Africans who have helped him raise her, young Sara Crewe is sent to boarding school in London. When things go badly for her there, her imaginative powers come to the rescue – helping to transform a drab institution into a place of magic and mystery. As the girl wins the affection of the other boarders she draws the ire of Miss Minchin, the dour headmistress. Sara is made a servant to the institution when her father is reported dead and his fortune seized. Sara counters all Miss Minchin’s best efforts to degrade her with the grace and virtue of ‘A Little Princess.’”
The show will be performed at St. Paul Catholic High School Friday, March 28 and Saturday, March 29 and Sunday, March 30.
Jillian Caillouette, who plays Sara Crewe in the high school production, was asked why she thought the original book had so much appeal to young readers.
“It’s so fun,” said Jillian. It helps that the lead character is appealing, as well, said Jillian, “Sara Crewe is so adventurous.”
Lauren Popillo, another cast member said, “It shows so much of a little girl growing up.”
Cameron Grant, who plays Sara’s father Capt. Crewe, said the book was probably so popular because “it deals with a young person overcoming adversity, which a lot of people do…”
Kodylynn Perkins, who plays Miss Amelia, added, “I think it appealed to young readers because it’s the story of a young girl who is not your average kind of character. She does things that aren’t normal for her age. She’s far beyond her years—precocious. (But) people can relate to her. Everyone has something they have to overcome and Sara does a good job of overcoming things.”
As for what the cast likes about the musical adaptation by Lippa, Jillian said, “As a stage show, what I like about it is it’s very fast-paced. It’s … very heartwarming. It’s great for the whole family. The music in it… sends chills up my spine. The music is really, really intricate, and very, very difficult. But if you listen to it, it’s seems effortless. It’s just amazing.”
Lauren said, “I love the music of this show. It’s incredible. It’s different. I’ve never seen anything like it with all the musicals I’ve done. I’ve never been part of something so simple and yet crazy at the same time. The music is completely different and difficult. But when you put it together and add the harmonies, it’s just incredible.”
Kodylynn said, “I think it’s a really awesome show, production-wise… You just don’t want to watch some boring dry show. It’s fun to have big production numbers… and really awesome music. It has a lot of show-stopping number. They’re very important to the story line… They’re all really good.
Cameron added: “I like that it keeps true to its own theme. The music is really well-written. It’s nice. It’s dynamic.”
If she had to play a character in the show other than their own, Jillian said, “I would play Becky, who is my best friend and sidekick in the show. She has a very, very, very tough life. She’s not treated the same way as the other girls in the boarding school. She’s mistreated. She is such strong person in the show and she has to put up with so much.”
“I think I like Jill’s character, Sara, the most,” said Lauren. “She’s definitely relatable. She’s like me as a kid. She is very stubborn at times, but she knows what she wants. She has two feet on the ground. And she’s not going to let anybody get in her way and let the peer pressure and bullying she goes through get in her way. She’s going to stay true to herself and true to her friends and keep… the promises she made to herself and her father.”
“I like the supporting character…,” said Cameron. “They are who I root for. They sort of have a different sort of (story) arc than the main characters do.”
“I really like the character of Miss Minchen,” said Kodylynn. “She’s an awful character. She’s really mean. However, she’s a really awesome character to watch. She’s really interesting and terrible, but in a good way.”
St. Paul’s Performing Arts has received its share of accolades through the years. And the cast feels “A Little Princess” again will be a good showcase for what the student performers can do on stage.
“This show is really, really good for us all to show off our talents and what makes us special and unique,” said Jillian. “Every single character… every single actor stands out. Every single person makes a difference in the story “
Kodylynn said, “It’s so big. We have a lot of talent and a lot of people who are really good at what they do. It’s really great everybody has their moment to shine.”
“I think we all are capable of so much,” said Lauren. “And each show we do here is very, very different. Definitely to get to do this music, which Andrew Lippin did incredibly well, is an honor for us. We love to do six part harmonies and here we get to do that. I think that I get chills every time we do the songs here.”
“It’s a very challenging show to do, vocally,” said Cameron.
And why will audiences like “A Little Princess?”
“It’s extremely heartwarming,” said Jillian. “(It’s about) the love of a family member, and making a difference in other people’s lives…. My character’s motto is, ‘How would a princess act?’… Everyone should think before they say something and respect others. That’s what ‘A Little Princess’ is all about.”
“Audiences will like it because it’s relatable to everyone,” said Kodylynn. “The title, ‘A Little Princess’ seems little girl-ish and fairy tale-ish, but it’s not. It’s definitely a show for anyone… it’s just really awesome.”
“Audience will like this because it’s not just a show for adults or just kids,” said Lauren. “It’s something everyone can come together and discuss… you can definitely relate this to different parts of your life.”
“The audience will like it because they get to see a lot of talent showcased here,” said Cameron. “It’s a really good show.”
Show dates are Friday, March 28 and Saturday, March 29 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, March 30 at 2 p.m. at St. Paul Catholic High School, 1001 Stafford Ave., Bristol. Tickets for this show can be purchased online at www.spchs.com.
Comments? Email mchaiken@BristolObserver.com.