Ravishingly gorgeous and endlessly inventive, The Light Princess shows the artistic force of National Theatre at its very best. Helmed by ingenious director Marianne Elliott, and reuniting many of the other creatives from smash hits War Horse and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, the new musical is a delightfully modern fairy tale for all ages.
Pop sensation Tori Amos makes an effortless transition to composing for music theatre, penning a romantically lush score that is a pleasure to hear. Book writer Samuel Adamson joins Amos on lyrics, and the pair have adapted and extended George MacDonald’s Victorian story to terrific effect.
Never having grieved for the death of her mother, the queen, Princess Althea experiences perpetual weightlessness, spending her time floating in a tower while the king decides how to defend the ailing royal city of Lagobel.
As Althea, Rosalie Craig is a luminous heroine, achieving the mind-boggling feat of singing while suspended in multiple directions by a diaphragm-crushing harness. Craig gives a stunning, completely endearing performance, and it is strongly hoped that it is captured on film as an NT Live presentation, or, at the very least, as a cast recording.
Nick Hendrix plays the charming Prince Digby, from the neighbouring royal city of Sealand. Craig and Hendrix enjoy wonderful chemistry, and the duet where they fall in love is a highlight of the score and the staging.
Althea’s plucky protector Piper is played by Amy Booth-Steel, recently seen in Australia on tour with NT megahit One Man, Two Guvnors.
Designer Rae Smith excels herself in creating the gorgeous flora and fauna of the mythical kingdoms, the brilliant colours bursting onto the stage like a children’s picture book come to life. Elliott’s production also features puppets, animated projections and joyful choreography. The ensemble plays multiple roles, and provides singing of notable strength and beauty.
At two hours and forty minutes (including interval) the show is a little long, especially for children, with perhaps one soaring ballad too many for Althea. Still, when the work is of this quality, it is difficult to complain about a few extra minutes.
The Light Princess plays at National Theatre, London until 2 February 2014.