Dallas — Rapunzel’s name is in the title, but as her stepmother Lady Za Za will tell you, this fractured fairy tale is really all about her! Dallas Children’s Theater opens its 31st season with the musical re-telling of the princess with the long locks, Rapunzel! Rapunzel! A Very Hairy Fairy Tale, running through Oct. 26.
DCT’s education director Nancy Shaeffer directs and choreographs a quirky cast of characters in this updated musical version of the original Brothers Grimm fairy tale with book, music and lyrics by Janet Yates Vogt and Mark Friedman. Schaeffer gets an assist with rich musical direction from Vonda Bowling.
We join Princess Rapunzel’s story on the eve of her 18th birthday, when she is supposed to report to the palace and take her rightful place as queen. But Rapunzel thinks she is only 15. Why? Because like most fairy tale stepmothers, who usually aren’t Mother of the Year material, Rapunzel’s stepmom, the wickedly narcissistic, but delightfully funny Lady Za Za, plans to swoop in after the princess’s time is up and claim the crown for her own. Meanwhile, in other parts of the kingdom, Sir Roderick is looking for a new quest, while his BFF, Edgar, who chose beauty school instead of knight training, is on a quest of his own for the perfect head of hair, and a mysterious gypsy woman is looking for her a powerful piece of jewelry that was stolen from her.
One of Dallas’s favorite divas, Denise Lee, inhabits the role of Lady Za Za, regal and demanding one minute and hilariously pouty the next. Her twangy countrified song, “It’s All About Me,” is one of the highlights of the show. Her hair is the other. Think Angelina Jolie’s Malificent.
As Princess Rapunzel, Erika Larsen, has a Disney princess look and a sweet voice that perfectly serves her dreamy ballad, “Oh, I Wish.” Making her DCT debut, Larsen’s fresh, youthful face works for Rapunzel, but a little more animation in her acting would help her hold her own in her limited tower space against her veteran children’s theater cast mates.
Zak Reynolds brings a charming bravado to his role as Sir Roderick. His budding romance with the sheltered Rapunzel is adorable. His sidekick, Edgar the hairdresser, is slightly underplayed by Jason Villarreal, also performing in his first DCT show.
Noelle Stanley is the mysterious gypsy woman on a mission, who is hilarious as back-up vocals in Edgar’s fabulous hair salon and in her Linda Richman “Cawfee Tawlk” take her character. DCT favorite, Karl Schaeffer is Socrates, a very serious dragon in Harry Potter glasses that guards and tutors the trapped princess.
The cast (except for Rapunzel, duh) dances, cavorts, leaps and climbs on H. Bart McGeehon’s set among layers of trees and on stone walls. Rapunzel’s tower glimmers in Aaron Johansen’s lush lighting with well-placed sparkly stones. In a first for DCT, the set was created using 90 percent recycled and repurposed materials.
Speaking of sparkly, Lyle Huchton’s costume design is another highlight of the production. Huchton puts noticeable effort and attention to detail in his costumes, giving everyone on stage, including the dragon, just enough sparkle and twinkles. He has outdone himself on Lady Za Za’s gorgeous gown, which gets different looks throughout the show with beautifully designed overlays. His costumes never fail to impress.
Robin Daffinee Coulonge deserves a design shout out for this production, not only for Lady Za Za’s ‘do, but also for Rapunzel’s very, very, very long hair that does double duty as a rope.
Rapunzel! Rapunzel! A Very Hairy Fairy Tale is recommended for children 4 and older. Adults will enjoy it as well with a clever script that’s full of fun pop culture references. If your back-to-school fall schedule has you tearing your hair out, take some time to relax with the family, and enjoy this hair-larious update of a familiar fairy tale.