Once upon a time a wise and much loved leader King Nicholas of Southbank decreed that a musical should be created. From amid the throng at the riverside court, a flame-haired sorceress of song named Tori Amos stepped forward to accept the challenge. A humble writer, Samuel Adamson, who had previously entertained the leader with tune-free shows was eager to help.
Together they struggled for years on the quest for new musical theatre perfection. Each time they brought their creation to the leader he would deem it not yet ready.
One day, after much anticipation and chattering among court, the flame-haired sorceress’ entertainment was finally staged, and it was full of theatrical magic and fairytale wonderment, though much of this came from one of the leader’s favourite West End wizards, director Marianne Elliott, who had previously made King Nicholas smile with her tales about a War Horse and a Curious Incident.
Many of her inventive team joined her to tell the story of The Light Princess, a teenage girl who, hiding from grief and responsibility, takes life so lightly that she floats through it, even when her people need her most, much to the infuriation of her king and father who takes drastic action to solve her air-headedness.
The wizard Elliott had a gift for stage magic, and the floating of the princess, so simple but so effective, pleased many as much as her previous work, owing much to the invention of Steven Hoggett.
The crowds were wowed too by how Rosalie Craig, the talented young actress chosen to star in the grand production, managed to sing so beautifully while drifting through the air or floating upside down. Even while being supported by hands and feet, or being manipulated like a little puppet girl, she found the angst of adolescence and fear of reality in the princess’ character.
While Nick Hendrix sang delightfully as the solemn prince of a warring land who would inevitably fall for the light princess – this is a fairytale after all – Hal Fowler was suitably evil as his father and court favourite Clive Rowe latterly found the beautiful agony and anguish of a father struggling to come to terms with a daughter he loves but can’t control, it was the work of wizard Elliott’s team that shone through.
Her designer Rae Smith created a forest of puff-headed dandelion trees and a magical lake in which the royal couple could cavort alongside care-free frogs, flying fish and suggestive anemones while the land’s master of puppetry Toby Olié helped bring life to both a majestic blue hawk and a mouse as cute as the loved-leader could hope to see.
No-one ever knew what the wise old leader, who was soon to leave his kingdom behind but was yet to name a successor, thought of his musical, and whether the lightness of story and character, which matched the weightlessness of the princess herself, was counterbalanced by the enchantment of the production. But, as with all good fairytales, one suspected they all lived happily ever after, whether they stayed on their own side of the river or later took their tale to the land of West End on the far side.