‘The 12 Dancing Princesses’ at Encore Stage & Studio

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FOUR STARS
Encore Stage and Studio presents The 12 Dancing Princesses, adapted for the stage by Matthew Heap. Executive Director Sara Strehle Duke, Artistic Director Susan Alison Keady, and Director Sarah Conrad lead an extensive number of youths (well over 20 cast members!) in this production, based on a lesser known Brothers Grimm classic.

Orelia (Zoe Rocchio) conspires with the princesses to break the evil enchantment. Photo by Larry McClemons.

Orelia (Zoe Rocchio) conspires with the princesses to break the evil enchantment. Photo by Larry McClemons.

Technical Director Kristen Jepperson uses three extensive sets for this show; a banquet hall, a girly bedroom, and a mystical dreamland. The details are imaginative and thoughtful; one step through a tinseled mirror and you go from our real, tangible world into a hazy garden full of exotic  shapes and colors. The transition is creative and well-executed. Costumer Debra Leonard has twelve princesses to dress (that’s a lot of tiaras!) and pulls off the task nicely with a veritable parade of taffeta and sparkle. Lighting by Gary Hauptman and Sound by Matthew Heap neatly bookend the technical aspects of the show, and give the young actors a steady foundation on which to perform.

Every evening King Alfred (a funny performance by Nicholas Boone), sends his twelve daughters off to bed, only to discover them weary-eyed the next morning and wearing worn, ruined shoes. This routine continues even after he secures their bedchamber in every way possible. Perplexed, he pleads his daughters to tell him about their nightly adventures, but to no avail. The girls will not (or cannot) confide in their father. As the mystery thickens, a desperate King Alfred promises his kingdom to any hero who can uncover the secret. Several young soldiers take on the challenge, only to be thwarted one after another. Adventure, deception, and unlikely heroes await every sunset. Will the princesses ever be free from what enslaves them?

(From Left to Right) Nicholas Boone, Cate Davis, Malena Davis, and Caroline Culberson.

(From Left to Right) Nicholas Boone, Cate Davis, Malena Davis, and Caroline Culberson.

There is some real talent brewing in this cast! Caroline Culberson is elegant and regal as the eldest sister Emma, and is nicely contrasted by Malena Davis as Imogen, a feisty, opinionated princess who refuses to be overlooked in a sea of siblings. The princesses have three enjoyable dance scenes, beginning with a controlled waltz that grows more frenzied as the plot deepens. Together, the princesses plot against their foes (Adam Ashley as the powerful Phanteous and Alex Bellem as the haughty Prince Stefan), and rally for their favorites (Cort Hollis as the brave, noble Terius and Kristopher Heaton as the valiant and mysterious Peter). The stage is action packed and full of life, that’s for sure.

By the last ten minutes, the script seems to collapse onto itself, reducing to far-fetched, confusing solutions in a harried attempt to tie up the plot (truly, it would rival any soap opera). However, the young actors deliver the material well, which is impressive.

I encourage taking in a showing of Encore Stage and Studio’s The 12 Dancing Princesses with your child, especially if they are interested in the performing arts. Children seeing their own peers onstage is an inspiring thing! This show is fun and adventurous, and will provide a nice evening of family entertainment.

Running time is an hour and a half, including one 15-minute intermission.

12DP DCMTA (1)

The 12 Dancing Princesses plays through June 8, 2014 at Thomas Jefferson Community Theatre– 125 S. Old Glebe Road Arlington, VA. For tickets, call (703) 548-1154 or purchase them online.

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