Hidden in the winding back roads of Owings Mills lies one of the oldest and only theatres in the Baltimore area specifically geared towards young audiences. Pumpkin Theatre is currently in its 49th year of producing child-friendly performances and educational outreach. It is clear from their current production that their mission to introduce young audiences to the stage is still going strong.
The Dancing Princesses written by Jimi Kinstle with music composed by Mandee Ferrier Roberts opens with a singing Chancellor played by Roberts and a very perplex King played by Derek Cooper. Everyday the King buys his five daughters new shoes and by the next morning they are worn through, what ever is a king to do? The Chancellor decides to hire a spy with a magic cloak to see what the princesses are doing each night. The answer surprises them all…and the audience because very little dancing is actually seen on stage (save for one cast dance number at the end of the play). The princesses have been secretly meeting and apparently dancing with the princes from the kingdom they are at war with. The royals must break a code hidden among old governing documents in hopes of bringing peace to both kingdoms.
While some of the actors did a good job at making the viewers feel included in the story, as a whole the production fell into the trap of having its actors act down to their young audience while the major plot point (the secret code) went far above their heads and was explained too fast for even the adults in the audience to catch up. Mandee Farrier Roberts steals the stage as the dry and humorous Chancellor. She is one of the few actors in this production that are able to be animated without crossing the line into cheesy. Spike Regales is another stand out as the spy, using physical humor rather than over the top vocals to keep the interest of his young audience.
But what did their target audience think? Let’s ask the real critic, my almost five-year-old daughter, who sat front and center excited to see dancing princesses.
“It was really, really short. I liked the King, he was funny but he kept staring at his hand, like this (demonstrates). The spy was funny, I liked his special cape that protects him. I wish they danced more like at the end. Oh and I liked the dresses they were pretty and the jesler….(chancellor).”
With promising music and the start of a good story line (in need of fleshing out) Pumpkin Theatre’s The Dancing Princesses is a good introduction to the theatre for young audiences.
Leanne Grace Stump
Running Time: Approximately 45 minutes with no intermission
The Dancing Princesses plays through December 11, 2016 at The Pumpkin Theatre located at Har Sinai Congregation— 2905 Walnut Avenue in Owings Mills, Maryland. For tickets call the box office at (410) 902- 1814 or purchase them online.