By Kenneth Jones
26 Feb 2007
|Photo by Aubrey Reuben|
Composer Lippa told Playbill.com that Will Chase (as Capt. Crewe) and Julia Murney (as Miss Minchin) will be heard on the disc, on the Ghostlight/Sh-K-Boom label. Chase and Murney were attached to the project in recent years. Lippa hopes for a CD release later in 2007.
A Little Princess had its premiere in 2004 at TheatreWorks in Palo Alto, CA, with a cast of 24 directed by Susan H. Schulman, and was seen at the National Alliance for Musical Theatre's 2005 Festival of New Musicals.
There were serious commercial hopes for the project when Dodger Theatricals — which produced the Burnett-inspired 1991 Broadway musical The Secret Garden — were attached, but the option was dropped and the project lost steam.
"We were kind of left hanging and couldn't get anything to happen," Lippa said. "We did the NAMT festival in 2005, and from that MTI said they wanted to license it. Since I have a close relationship with them, I thought this was the right thing to do: This is a big, famous title and people will want to do it. People want to do family shows, and big shows. We decided we're going to license it and record it."
The cast at TheatreWorks boasted 24, but it could be done with less, Lippa said.
"The challenge of the casting is that there's an African cast, a children's cast and a Victorian England cast," Lippa explained.
With book and lyrics by Brian Crawley (Violet), A Little Princess is based on the 1905 book about motherless Sara Crewe, a girl of privilege, who is left at Miss Minchin's school for girls while her father sees to his interests abroad. Having been raised in India among officers and people of quality, she behaves like a princess, showing kindness to her fellow students and the staff. When her father's fortune's turn, however, the cruel and corrupt Miss Minchin makes Sara a servant and she lives a life of hunger, despair and drudgery. Characters with ties to her family fortune move in next door to the boarding house, and there is hope for a happy future when she starts making connections with them.
The Lippa-Crawley musical ties the Crewe family to Africa rather than India. (The Secret Garden — both book and musical — famously has a colonial Indian influence.)
The novel "A Little Princess" was based on an earlier serialized novella called "Sara Crewe," which the author later tailored into a play (seen in London and on Broadway). She expanded it to the full-length novel, "A Little Princess."
"Little Lord Fauntleroy" is another popular novel by Burnett.
In 2004 there were two "Little Princess"-inspired musicals aiming for a Broadway life: Lippa and Crawley's version and the musical comedy Princesses, set in a modern boarding school where the girls are putting on musical about "A Little Princess." Two major regional productions of the latter played (Goodspeed Musicals in 2004, and 5th Avenue Theatre in 2005), but a commercial production has not transpired yet. Cheri Steinkellner and Bill Steinkellner penned the libretto, David Zippel (who conceived the show) penned lyrics and Matthew Wilder wrote the score.