Throughout the past 71 years, Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s beloved novella, “The Little Prince,” has been adapted countless times and presented as plays, films, an opera, ballet, TV shows, and more, spawning museum exhibitions, picture and story books, costumes - a myriad of magical manifestations to capture the imagination of youngsters and the young-at-heart.
There’s so much more than the words and pictures to “The Little Prince”. The story’s theme is priceless – that grownups should learn to see what’s invisible to the eye but meaningful to the heart, and they must see the world through the eyes of a child to fully appreciate and enjoy their lives.
Nine years ago, Boston Lyric Opera presented an enchanting English translated production of “The Little Prince,” at Boston’s Shubert Theatre, bolstered by a children’s chorus, glitter, and funky, funny Alice in Wonderland-type characters. Children and adults sat wide-eyed throughout the performance, marveling at its fantasy, beautiful music, and inspiring message.
At New Repertory Theatre’s two-act, musical version, (directed by Ilyse Robbins), theatergoers are immediately drawn to Matthew Lazure’s out-of-this-world set, adorned with circular platform clocks and scales that serve as stepping stones. The stage floor’s map indicates the Sahara Desert, where a bored, lonely Aviator has crashed his biplane. The background boasts outer space-like symbology, with a huge circle that opens, revealing the Aviator’s drawings and also shadowy silhouettes that emerge on stage as the Little Prince, a personified boa constrictor and others.
Music director-pianist Todd C. Gordon, Mike Jacobs and Jeri Sykes on reed instruments provide mystical sound effects and accompaniment, and Karen Perlow’s lighting swirls and blinks, with stellar and planetary effects.
The first act starts slowly and remains low-key. The Aviator (Nick Sulfaro) flits about, circling with his small biplane on a pliable, thin pole, singing, “I Fly,” before he crashes in the desert. He’s cautious in his first encounter with a strange, wistful young boy, his golden hair windblown, swept-back. The boy (Barnstable High School freshman Wil Moser) eerily seems to know The Aviator’s thoughts and ability. He returns at dusk, dreamily watching the sunset, remembering how he could see “44 Sunsets” on his small planet. The Little Prince’s laughter is supposed to be infectious, but it’s irritating to the Aviator and theatergoers. Although Moser can sing and act, he lacks charisma and the innocent charm and wonder of a younger child.
The second act is more lively, mostly because of the characters the boy meets on other small planets, in his quest to find the meaning of life. They’re all wrapped up into one, versatile Andrew Barbato, and his rambunctious, animated, funny portrayals as the King with no Kingdom or issues; the Businessman who keeps busy, without customers or cause; a Geographer who doesn’t travel anywhere; the lonely Lamplighter, whose work never stops; a baobab, hunter, and a nimble fox, who desperately wants to be tamed and befriend the Little Prince. Together, they sing a delightful duet,“Day After Day”. Barbato ignites a spark, enlivening the entire production. Also, Laura Jo Trexler flexes her lovely voice in her three roles, portraying the Little Prince’s beautiful single rose he abandoned on his planet; a giggly wall of roses; and a poisonous snake.
The Little Prince longs to return home and care for his precious rose. As he leaves the sad Aviator, he tells him and us to look to the stars and listen for his laughter. “All The Stars Will Laugh,” he sings, and in that one precious moment, we believe him.
BOX INFO:Two-act musical adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s book, by Rick Cummins and John Scoullar, appearing through Dec. 21, in the Charles Mosesian Theater, Arsenal Center for the Arts, 321 Arsenal St., Watertown. Performances: Dec. 5,12,19, at 8 p.m.; Dec. 3,4,18, at 7:30 p.m.; Dec. 6,13,20, at 3,8 p.m. Dec. 11, at 2,7:30 p.m.; Dec. 7,14,21, at 2 p.m. Check for talkbacks. Tickets: $30-$60; student, senior, group discounts. Call 617-923-8487 or visit newrep,org or the Box Office; groups, contact email@example.com or call 617-923-7060, Ext. 8206.