Dallas — Walking into Dallas Children’s Theater to see Fancy Nancy the Musical is a little like the transition in the 1939 classic film The Wizard of Oz, when everything changes from plain black and white to color. Everything is “fancy.” The plants by the door are all fancy. The lobby lights are festooned (that’s a fancy word for “decorated”) with flowers and twinkle lights. All of it is merely an amuse-bouche (that’s a fancy French word for “taste”) of what’s waiting in the explosion of color, flowers, feathers and flamingos that make up Fancy Nancy’s world. And that’s only Act I.
Fancy Nancy the Musical is based on Jane O’Connor’s popular Fancy Nancy books. The original Fancy Nancy book is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. The musical stage version, with book and lyrics by Susan DeLallo and music and lyrics by Danny Abosch, played Off-Broadway from 2012 to 2014. DCT’s very own Nancy, Nancy Schaeffer, education director and associate artistic director, directs DCT’s production on the Baker Theater stage of the Rosewood Center for Family Arts through Oct. 25. Adam C. Wright provides musical direction for the delightful upbeat songs that help tell Nancy’s story.
First of all...as Fancy Nancy herself will tell you, “Fancy is not just for girls. Anyone can be fancy.” Although the cast is mostly female, there is Lionel, who likes to tell bad jokes and taunt the girls with gossip. Lionel, Bree, and sporty sisters Rhonda and Wanda are friends with Nancy, who is all about the “fancy.” Fancy words, fancy clothes, fancy food, fancy manners, and French words, which are “extra fancy.”
At the heart of the story is the upcoming Deep Sea Dance, which dance teacher Madame Lucille is casting. Both Nancy and Bree have their hearts set on being mermaids. The cast list is posted, and they learn that the only mermaid role has been given to “the new girl,” Savannah. Then, after an unfortunate incident involving a cat and bicycle, Bree lands the coveted role. Nancy’s reactions and feelings are so relatable and real that every single person in the audience—young or old—can easily tap into that horrible feeling when you want to be happy for someone, but find it hard because they got exactly what you wanted.
Morgan Mabry is Fancy Nancy. She’s a twirling, swirling bundle of joy in ruffles, ribbons and red cowgirl boots with sparkly stars. She’s a drama queen who throws herself across her bed when she’s having "the worst day of her life." She sings with a clear, beautiful voice full of childlike emotions, and she’s hilarious. Her reaction to the role she is given in Deep Sea Dance is priceless.
As her pals, Lindsay Longacre as Rhonda and Olivia De Guzman Emile as Wanda are all competitive bravado as the athletic, but adoring, sisters. Jori Jackson as Bree is Nancy’s BFF and a sweet, slightly more sedate balance to Nancy’s exuberance. Rashaun Sibley is adorable as Lionel, the token male of the group, who relishes his chance to be menacing as the shark, MC Hammerhead, in his hip-hop performance in the dance recital.
Monique Abry does a lovely, sincere job as Nancy’s mother, charged with the task of coping with the rollercoaster of emotions that is her daughter and helping her to learn lessons along the way.
The songs in Fancy Nancy the Musical are all cute, clever and upbeat. Standouts are “You’ll Always Feel Much Better After Tea” and “Something Terrible.”
Act II’s dance recital is like no dance recital anyone has ever been forced to sit through. Madame Lucille clearly has no budget issues when it comes to her set. DCT’s H. Bart McGeehon has created an undersea wonderland to rival Disney’s The Little Mermaid. When the glittery clamshell turns around, you almost expect to see Bette Midler take the stage! In addition to being visually spectacular, the recital is interactive with creative elements that really should be experienced as surprises. McGeehon didn’t spend all his time on the underwater portion either, from Nancy’s idyllic backyard oasis to her girly fuchsia bedroom, every detail is just like Nancy herself, almost a little too much, but in a good way. The same can be said for Lyle Huchton’s imaginative costumes, especially in the ocean dance recital, and Aaron Johansen’s lush lighting.
Fancy Nancy the Musical is recommended for children 5 and older, and fancy dress is encouraged. There were even a couple dads who were good sports and wearing feather boas at Sunday afternoon’s performance. Fancy Nancy is tres magnifique for the whole family.
That’s extra-fancy French for “wonderful!”