THE LITTLE PRINCE - Broadway Theatre
Originating in Paris in 2019 and then playing in Sydney and London, THE LITTLE PRINCE, an acrobatic dance version of the Antoine de Saint-Exupery classic created by French contemporary dance impresario Anne Tournie, has landed on Broadway . Landed is perhaps a misnomer; even though much of the dance occurs earth-bound, a great deal (the more interesting parts) gets executed on ropes and straps suspended from the rafters. But even in mid-air, the production fails to transport; static prevails.
The plot of this French extravaganza follows the 1943, beloved novella faithfully, ploddingly observing the linear sequences of Exupery’s fable. A young pilot crashes in the desert and encounters a little prince (Lionel Zacaharias, who originated the role), traveling far away from his own asteroid to explore the world. The Prince’s story is told through the POV of the aviator but is expressed by the Narrator (Chris Mouron, who originated the role, too, and also co-directs with Tournie). She guides us through the Prince’s adventures - with a rose with whom he falls in love, a dastardly king, a vain man, a silly drunk,a dutiful lamplighter - and then, to earth in the second half, experiences with a snake, a fox and a switchman. The Narrator speaks mostly in English, sometimes in French, reciting passages from the novella. All of it is subtitled on monitors stage right and left.
But Exupery’s text gets too minimized; it helps to quick-read the book again beforehand. What’s more the whimsey and charm of Saint Exupery's prose goes missing. And the characters are so literally presented - and the dance so non-stop athletic - that their metaphoric import goes missing, too.
The atmosphere is like a vaguely surreal circus. The video design projected against the backdrop couldn’t be considered digital cutting edge. The scenic illustrations are serviceable enough, but elude the childish, primitive charm (now iconic) of Saint Exupery’s drawings for his book. The musical score by Terry Tuck seems to be an all-purpose hybrid of soft techno and New Age.
The dancers are all exceptionally skilled; many of the Americans that complement the original French cast are Ailey trained. Special kudos to Antony Cesar who plays the vain man, and provides some exciting aerialist moments as the aviator at the end, and Srilata Ray as the snake. To conclude, a finale, which finally provides narrative exposition, gets stretched out in four codas. It all still comes in under two hours, with a hefty twenty-minute intermission.
A nice family with three children under the age of six, sat in front of me, and the kids were thrilled with it all, which was nice to see.