Testimonials – The Princess and the Handmaiden
Steven Berketo, Toronto Stage Review
MAJESTIC MUSICAL BOWS TO DESTINY AND BELONGING
Despite our paths crossing with diverse folk from various walks of like, chances are neither you nor anyone you know have found themselves mingling with a princess or a handmaiden. Try as you may here at home, you just won’t find any in Rosedale, Rocesvalles or any downtown points in between. But in the rare chance that you did, they may very well be driven by the same motivation that Regan Thiel as the Princess and Tracey Michailidis as the Handmaiden parade in Leslie Arden’s majestic musical inspiration of the German fairy tale, The Goose Girl.
When the Princess is sent on a medical mission allowing her to experience life outside the castle, she calls upon her trusted servant to accompany her through the dark and dangerous forest. The Handmaiden resists the invite, causing friendship friction, but has a change of heart when she discovers the opportunity offers a chance to meet a handsome prince.
The dark forest becomes intensely darker for the Princess when the Handmaiden betrays her in the middle of nowhere and abandons the royalty figure. Despite the grossly inexcusable behaviour from one long time friend against another, problems always have a way of working themselves out.
Director Allen MacInnes’ spunky and spirited staging pulls the imagination trigger for family audiences with a number of visually compact scenes including Scottish sheep grazing in a meadow. More than this, he’s rounded up some mighty powerful pipes to belt out charming songs, making this a world premiere to remember.
Is The Princess & the Handmaiden about forgiveness? Is it about destiny or perhaps belonging? Playwright Leslie Arden leans on all three with wit, elegance and style, proving the musical landscape would be a barren place without her.
Lynn Slotkin, CBC Radio 1
THE PRINCESS AND THE HANDMAIDEN is based on a Grimm’s Brothers Fairy tale Called THE GOOSE GIRL. A simple story of a Princess who is sent to the next kingdom to marry the prince. Her handmaiden goes with her. On the way the handmaiden gets fed up with waiting on the Princess and forcibly switches places with her. Composer/lyricist/writer, Leslie Arden, has fleshed out the slight story, and expanded it to be a sophisticated tale of friendship, awakening of responsibility, loyalty, tenacity and being true to oneself. It’s a love story on many levels, but it doesn’t finish with a conventional ending. Rather it has a really smart, mature ending, and Arden’t lyrics and music are lush, complex, witty and sophisticated.
THE PRINCESS AND THE HANDMAIDEN has real charm because the cast is first rate. As the Princess, Regan Thiel is kind, wide-eyed, sings beautifully and brings out the beating hear of the Princess.
As the Handmaiden, Tracy Michailidis is edgy, brash, pushy, and ultimately reformed. Allen MacInnis directs with a fine sense of humour and compassion.
It looks like a fair tale land with lots of visual jokes — there’s a flock of sheep that sing… the production does really well.
Jon Kaplan, Now Magazine
AWESOME ARDEN – Leslie Arden is one of our best musical theatre creators. We see her work all too rarely, so treat yourself to the world premiere of The Princess & The Handmaiden, a Grimm Brothers-type tale filled with tuneful music and clever lyrics in a production that would be hard to top.
Girlhood friends, the high-born princess (Regan Thiel) and her servant the handmaiden (Tracey Michailidis), are driven apart by jealousy and a lack of understanding of the other’s world; switching places, each discovers that the grass isn’t always greener in the other’s field and one decides to create her own destiny.
Tricking the princess, the handmaiden takes her place in a distant kingdom to which she’s been sent to cure an ailing king (a basso-voiced Sharron Matthews, doubling as narrator) and wed the prince. The princess, meanwhile, ends up in the hut of the reclusive shepherd Conrad (Jonathan Tan) and has to fight to prove who she is.
Directed by Allen MacInnis, the show is first-rate, from the talented cast to the design that includes a movable forest designed by David Boechler and lit by Bonnie Beecher, as well as creative, fun costumes by Dana Osborne. Standouts are the segmented hoop-skirts that, along with headdresses and tails, transform the chorus into sheep from an unnamed Scottish clan.
And then there’s the catchy music. Witty lyrics with smooth double, triple and internal rhymes have older viewers smiling constantly. Played by musical director Diane Leah and Gregory Diakun, the tunes give added texture to the characters and the story.
I’m a great believer in not talking down to young audiences, but rather giving them material that asks them to reach and grow.