A Time for Magic
State Theater Company conjures 'The Little Prince' for the holidays
When I was a child, I came across a book that both thrilled and frightened me, and my bet is that if you came across it, it had a similar effect on you. The book was about a nameless aviator who, when he was a child, drew a picture that no adult could see for what it was, and so he ceased his artistic endeavors, instead learning to fly so he could leave behind a world in which no adult could truly see. One day, in the middle of the Sahara, the aviator's plane fails and falls to the sand. He lands safely, attempts repairs, does not succeed, and falls asleep, only to be awakened with a request made by a beautiful boy, blond and uniformed in red, white, and blue, with stars on his shoulders and black boots on his feet: "Please, sir, draw me a sheep." And so, forsaking the loss of his childhood and the gloom of his adulthood, the aviator draws again and thus befriends the Little Prince, who will change his life forever.
The State Theater Company has a gift to offer this holiday season, and by all accounts it should be something special. It is the tale of the Little Prince told in story and song, and you can see it through the month of December. John Scoullar's script and lyrics almost exactly mirror Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's book, and Rick Cummins' music soars and dips, now operatic, now lyrical, now music hall, now ballad. Challenges abound for director Scott Kanoff, for not only must he present a story and a character that are well-known and well-loved the world over, but he must find a way to embody a talking rose, snake, and fox; a journey through the planets; and some of the most famous drawings in children's literature.
Without giving anything away, company artistic associate Michelle Polgar assures me that Kanoff does it all, in truly surprising and inspiring ways and with the help of an accomplished cast: local puppeteer and actor Brian Gaston as the Aviator; Austin favorite Paul Norton in multiple roles, including the pivotal role of the Fox; choreographer and dancer Andrea Ariel as the Snake; and 12-year-old Paulina Reyes as the Little Prince. "For years Scott has been looking for the right time and place to stage this beautiful musical," said Polgar. "Now seemed the right time. With the economy and political sphere in their current conditions, with arts organizations struggling both here and across the country, now is absolutely the right time to remind us all of what is essential in our lives. It is a magical play, and now is the time for magic." How right she is.
Just because we have to grow up doesn't mean we have to grow old. Truth is hard to come by, but truth, eternal truth, is what this story is all about. It was, in fact, what both thrilled and frightened me when I first found this story so long ago, for while I, like the aviator, strayed from the path, I believe I've found it again, after many years of chopping and poking through brush and bramble, a truth spoken by a fox to a little prince who came from the stars: "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye." Whether by man or beast, truer words were never spoken.
The Little Prince runs Dec. 6--29 at the State Theater, 719 Congress. For more information, call 472-5470 or visit www.austintheatre alliance.org.