The Vagabond Acting Troupe has been presenting touring theater performances for children for more than 21 years. For the last four the company has been in residence at the Arts House at 30 Fairview Road in Honey Brook, Route 82 and Fairview Road in the old St. Peter’s Church.
One of the original shows the company presented in its first season at the new building was The Twelve Dancing Princesses written by the company’s founding Executive Director Aileen McCulloch, and her then 9-year old son, Lionel. Due to requests from many children who saw the show in its world premiere performance, the company will remount the show with an all-new cast of princesses, May 9 and 10.
The production is based on the Grimm Brothers original tale, but was changed up a bit to suit the 18 member cast of local children.
“We make an effort to give every student a featured role,” says McCulloch of the Youth Musical Workshop program productions. “In this case, we have more girls than boys, so instead of having a King, as in the original story, we have a Queen. And instead of having the princesses going into the ground where they are dancing with 12 dancing princes, the kids came up with an alternate ending to suit our predominately female cast.”
McCulloch, a Morgantown resident, is excited that on this venture her son, Lionel came on board to help write the show with her so many years ago, and has returned to help with rewrites and to appear in the production once again.
“Lionel has been doing theatre since before he was born,” says McCulloch, who was on stage during her pregnancy 13 years ago. “In fact, he was born on closing night of a production I was directing - he was two weeks late, but I made it to all the shows. So it’s no wonder he’s been acting and helping me direct shows all of his life.”
In the production, 13-year-old Lionel plays the Jester (the role he originated four years ago), who has been threatened by his King (played by Celia Hernandez, of Downingtown) to tell him an exciting story, which he weaves through the music of Aron Arensky’s Fairy Tale, or lose his head. The Jester describes a family in crisis, where twelve princesses wake up every morning with their shoes in tatters, and no story to tell to defend the major family expense of new shoes every day!
It’s a family affair with youngest son Tiernan also appearing in the production as the shoemaker who is called in to save the day with some more durable shoes. In addition to the McCulloch boys, 16 other children aged 5 to 12 take to the stage in the original musical, which features music that is in the public domain from composers like Anton Arensky, Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern and more.
For once upon a time there was a king, who had 12 beautiful daughters, each more beautiful than the last. After his death, though, the frantic Queen (Skye Graham of Honey Brook) wakes to find 12 pairs of worn out dancing slippers in her daughters’ room. The princesses are exhausted from their adventures, but the eldest, Dahlia (Hannah Elliott of Chester Springs) had convinced the other girls not to tell anyone what has been going on, although youngest daughters Petunia (Ashley McClelland of Honey Brook) and Snap Dragon (Rachel Ruch of Coatesville) are convinced that there is a monster under the bed. When the shoe maker arrives, he mentions to the Queen that he’s been making a new pair of slippers for the girls almost every day since the king’s passing and something must be done or the kingdom will go bankrupt.
Three daughters, Lilly (Sydney Monaghan of Downingtown), Rose (Allie Wannas of Morgantown) and Dahlia try to convince the shoe maker to invent a shoe that won’t be destroyed if danced in By the Sea. The shoemaker sets off to try his hand, but the Queen is in despair. Her maid (Kristina Nelson of Downingtown) suggests she Look for the Silver Lining, as the mystery is just the ticket to get some princes to come courting her 12 eligible daughters. The Queen agrees and the contest is set, whoever can guess the mystery of the dancing princesses will have his pick of the girls.
Several princes make attempts, but none can solve the riddle. A wandering soldier (Aidan Chandler of Elverson) stops by looking for a bed for the night. The Jester, who has his cap set on his dance partner, the princess Violet (Julia Yeomans of Honey Brook), encourages the soldier to try to figure out the secret, and he’ll help as long as he agrees not to choose the Jester’s favorite daughter for his wife. The soldier agrees because he, like all soldiers, love a good mystery, and so begins the adventure of the Twelve Dancing Princesses.
Will the soldier solve the riddle? Will the shoemaker invent a shoe that will last a bit longer than one night? Will Woof (Lalani Brock) figure out the answer to princess Daisy’s (Jasmine Levengood of Morgantown) riddles? The answers are fun and full of waltzing and song, from many more princesses as Brynn Ennis, Cami Hernandez, Julia Weisenberg, Paige Byerly and Jenna DiFabrizio all take entertaining solo turns.
Tickets can be purchased through www.brownpapertickets.com, or with check or cash through a cast member in advance, and at the door. The company encourages advanced purchase due to ease of processing payments through online ticketing service.
Following Dancing Princesses is Jason Robert Brown’s 13 The Musical on May 29 through June 1, and Free Summer Camps begin June 16 – with camps running through the beginning of August, 2014. For information on the company’s performance at the Arts House or to reserve tickets, visit www.vagabondactingtroupe.org or call 610-286-5567.
The show runs for only two performances on the Vagabond Acting Troupe stage at the Corner Arts Center, Route 82 and Fairview Road, Friday, May 9 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, May 10 at noon. A pre-show brunch precedes the Saturday performance at 10:30 a.m. Up next for youth actors interested in participating at Vagabond Acting Troupe are several afternoon and evening production opportunities along with a Free Summer Camp running from June 16 to August 1 (day camp). For more information visit www.vagabondactingtroupe.org.