Fresh new family show ‘Princess and the Pea’ premieres at Creative Cauldron

In this delightful musical retelling of the classic tale, the lowly pea takes centerstage.

Just when you think you know the age-old fairy tale Princess and the Pea backward and forward, Creative Cauldron adds enough twists and delightful turns to warrant a return to the ole mattress stack. In this original retelling developed in a workshop for the Learning Theater Ensemble, the “pea” gets top billing, and young performer Whit Jenkins is iridescent in the role. Finally more than a punchline, the pea has her say and gets full star treatment as she trounces along the set commanding limelight and attention in full green regalia, artfully designed by Margie Jervis.

Alec Goldenberg and Cora Brock portray best buddies who play board games with each other for hours, share their insights, and can rely on each other in their darkest moments. Goldenberg’s character also happens to be Prince Dillon, who must choose a Princess. The show goes into high-gear hilarity when he tries to fulfill his duties by interviewing potential candidates eager to be selected. It’s Dating Game mixed with Zany Girl meets The Bachelor as the idiosyncratic wannabe princesses line up for the prize of a lifetime. The fun-and-games silliness of the competition underscores key messages throughout the script that true friendship is the key to happiness and fulfillment. Catchy music and lyrics by Matt Conner and Stephen Gregory Smith sparkle, with Brock as Alana pondering, “What Is Royal?”

Gretchen Midgely as the Queen, Alec Goldenberg as Prince Dillon, and Oscar Salvador as the King in ‘The Princess and the Pea / La Princesa y el Guisante.’ Photo by William T. Gallagher Photography.

Directors Lenny Mendez and Laura Connors Hull wrangle a stage full of youngsters keeping everyone in line and character, including court jester Marie Solander bursting with enthusiasm and megawatt energy. Ensemble characters are part of various kingdoms, there’s a museum curator for the precious pea, and there’s even an assortment of animals in one of the scenes showcasing the outstanding costuming by Jervis.

Oscar Salvador and Gretchen Midgley are adorable as the King and Queen as they anxiously attend to their son’s mate-seeking quests. Multitalented Midgley delivers a particularly engaging “Beyond What You Have Known” with expressive vocals. The two royals also bring a clear resonant Spanish to the duo-linguistic script, a refreshing touch of inclusivity that the Cauldron team has incorporated into their family shows. The dialog coaches have done yet another excellent job with the young cast members in their Spanish renditions as well. Lighting by Lynn Joslin goes from the bright crispness of a game show to apprehensive red to a warm bluish tinge to relay the various moods with ease.

The Princess and the Pea family show at Creative Cauldron has the trademark stack of mattresses but resets what counts as the vital message. With help from a playful Wizard, the always reliable Gus Knapp, a lowly pea takes centerstage and calls the shots. In this telling, a pea is the thing that gets to strut her stuff and ratchet up the noise and racket for the hapless Alana trying to get a good night’s sleep. Ah, there’s the rub in determining who is sensitive enough to be princess material. But the script also leaves open the possibility of Alana choosing to stay true to herself and remain just good friends with the prince.

Full cast of ‘The Princess and the Pea / La Princesa y el Guisante.’ Photo by William T. Gallagher Photography.

This production of The Princess and the Pea flips the script and brings a fresh new approach to familiar characters and scenarios. Once again, Creative Cauldron hits a high mark for rollicking family entertainment that’s laugh-out-loud funny, with messages of caring insight tucked between the chuckles.

Running Time: 75 minutes, with no intermission.

The Princess and the Pea / La Princesa y el Guisante plays through March 24, 2024 (Fridays at 7:30 pm, Saturdays at 2:00 pm & 7:30 pm, Sundays at 2:00 pm & 4:00 pm), at Creative Cauldron – 410 South Maple Avenue, Falls Church, VA. For tickets (Adults $20;
Students $18), call (703) 436-9948 or purchase them online.

The program for Princess and the Pea can be viewed here.

COVID Safety: Creative Cauldron is a mask-optional environment.​ Creative Cauldron’s COVID-19 Theater Protocol is available online

The Princess and the Pea / La Princesa y el Guisante
Adapted from the Hans Christian Anderson Classic Story by Ellen Selby and Lenny Mendez
Music by Matt Conner
Lyrics by Stephen Gregory Smith
Directed by Lenny Mendez and Laura Connors Hull

Gretchen Midgley as the Queen
Oscar Salvador as the King
Augustus Knap as The Wizard
The Learning Theater Ensemble

Costume, Props and Set Design—Margie Jervis
Lighting/ Projection Design—Lynn Joslin
Music Supervisor/Orchestrator—Warren Freeman
Stage Manager—Nicolas J. Goodman


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