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‘A Little Princess’ example

A sweet story of a sweet heart earning its reward

Posted: February 3, 2012 6:00 a.m.
Updated: February 3, 2012 6:00 a.m.

Left to right, Carol Rock, as Miss Minchin, Fiona Perry, as Sara Crewe, and Alianna Medlen, as Becky, in the sweet and inspiring “A Little Princess,” which continues at the Canyon Theatre Guild through Feb. 26.

 

"A Little Princess" opened at the Canyon Theatre Guild this past Saturday, and the family classic (originally an 1888 serialized novel) holds up well, particularly with a talented cast of both younger and more seasoned actors. It's a low-key and charming tale, with well-defined characters and a straightforward plot that even the youngest audiences will find easy to follow.

"A Little Princess" is the story of Sara Crewe, an intelligent, polite and creative young girl whose life is dramatically changed from that of a wealthy young woman to a pauper in the blink of an eye. With the help of several dear friends, Sara remains as generous and unwavering and imaginative as ever, proving to all that anyone can be "A Little Princess" if their heart is in the right place.

All of this occurs in the boarding school run by the stern and demanding Miss Minchin, who coddles and flatters the wealthy and browbeats and abuses those who aren't.

Sara's riches to rags and back again to riches evolution (oops, did I give something away?) provides the perfect counterpoint between her generous heart and Minchin's cold and calculating one. And through this arises the moral to the story: Kindness and generosity are, ultimately, rewarded, and their opposite is ultimately punished.

Well, it is theater, after all.

This is the second Canyon Theatre Guild production that Randy Aronson has directed, and since the first was "Little Women," he quipped that he is, apparently, on "the little tour."

"I do love these old classic stories," he said. "They still contain the truths we need to be reminded of." He went on to say that the story says a lot about how we treat each other today, even though it was written in a period when English class systems were ugly. "If we listen and follow Sara's example, we'll all be a little bit better when we leave the theater," he said.

Aronson said that his cast worked amazingly hard and his young ladies were very quick to pick up their characters. He added that the character of Sara makes everyone better in the story, and he said that Fiona Perry, who plays Sara, does the same thing for the rest of the cast.

Quite a compliment that, but well deserved from my point of view. Fiona Perry seems to exhale gentility, kindness and warmth, and though quite young, she also has an aura of tranquility during times of turmoil that is soothing to the soul. (It kind of makes you want to check with her family to see how she really behaves around the house.)

We'll run down the rest of the excellent cast as far as we can:

Carol Rock plays Miss Minchin with the perfect haughty, aggressive, bullying style. Nothing is over the top, though, and when it's time to beat a hasty retreat, she knows how to do it. But there is depth here as well, and when she gets her comeuppance, it's satisfying, yet you feel a little sorry for her, too.

Alianna Medlen plays Becky, the abused servant girl who befriends Sara and vice versa. In this she is just the right combination of sweet and put-upon.

Allee Monheim plays Amelia, Minchin's sister, as the complete "yes-woman" who has a heart. It's fun when their roles reverse.

Justine Kelly plays Lavinia, the "mean girl" Sara must contend with at the school. With her perpetual scowling and plotting, she is the girl you love to hate.

Mackenzie Betteridge plays Lottie, the spoiled little brat who is made sweet by Sara's example. She is fun to watch in quite a powerful performance.

Jenna Bushton, as the girl in the streets, has a brief but moving ballet dance.

Wade Bradford plays both Monsieur Thibault, the French teacher, and Lascar, the mysterious Indian man with the monkey. He does well in both, but that monkey is funny, and a scene stealer.

Michael Davies comes on late in the show as Mr. Carrisford, who turns Sara's life back into that of a "princess." In a very brief performance, Davies makes you believe.

So take a gentle journey to your sweeter side and take the kids to "A Little Princess." There will be performances at 2 p.m. on Saturdays, Feb. 4, 11, 18 and 25. There will be a Sunday matinee at 2 p.m. on Feb. 19 and Sunday performances at 6 p.m. on Feb. 5, 12 and 26. Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for juniors and seniors. The Canyon Theatre Guild is located at 24242 Main Street, Newhall, CA 91321. Call (661) 799-2702 or visit www.canyontheatre.org.

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