White, Prymus, Sloan, Tower, Tonex Open in Princess and the Black-Eyed Pea Dec. 3

By Kenneth Jones
December 3, 2008

The Princess and the Black-Eyed Pea, a soulful musical based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, starring Tony Award winner Lillias White as a meddling queen, opens Dec. 3 in a world-premiere production by San Diego REPertory Theatre at the Lyceum Theatre.

Previews began Nov. 23, and performances play to Dec. 21 in San Diego, CA. Presented by special arrangement with producer Chris Bensinger, the musical is "set in the heart of two exotic African kingdoms" and concerns "a young princess and her search for true love." Expect "gospel, funky rhythm and blues, tropical African world beat and soaring pop ballads" in a show for all ages.

With a book by Kirsten Childs (who penned the multiple award-winning The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin, and Miracle Brothers and Funked Up Fairy Tales), music by Andrew Chukerman, lyrics by Karole Foreman and Chukerman, and additional lyrics by Childs, The Princess and the Black-Eyed Pea was awarded the Richard Rodgers Award for Most Promising New Musical and a 2008 Edgerton Foundation New Play Award. Foreman is credited with the project's conception.

Stafford Arima (London's Ragtime, Off-Broadway's Altar Boyz, Bowfire) directs a cast that includes Tony winner Lillias White (The Life) as Queen Zauba, "American Idol" veteran Sabrina Sloan as Princess Quelie, gospel star Tonex as Rolin, Broadway's Ken Prymus, Jr. (Cats) as King Kemo, Josh Tower (The Lion King) as Prince Gallant, Jennifer Leigh Warren (Big River) as Hena, plus Angela Teek, Perry L. Brown, Harrison White, Sylvia Mac Calla, Randy Aaron, Angela Wildflower Polk, Warren G. Nolan Jr., Loren Lott, Kalif and Brooke Aston.

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The creative team includes choreographer Todd L. Underwood and musical direction by Jim Vukovich.

Here's how the musical is described: "A plucky princess. A scientifically minded prince. Bossy parents, jealous cousins, wacky bridal contestants and a dastardly heir. These and other lively characters inhabit the colorful African kingdoms of Kheba and Torel in a delightful remake of the classic fairy tale, 'The Princess And The Pea.' Beautiful young Princess Quelie of Kheba is determined to define her own sense of 'Princesshood,' and sneaks away from her domineering father King Nat to enter a forbidden dance competition in the kingdom of Torel. Meanwhile, much to the dismay of his overbearing mother Queen Zauba, science-obsessed Prince Gallant of Torel would rather solve the mystery of an unnatural, gloomy light hovering above his kingdom than concern himself with the wedding test that will determine his future bride. When Quelie literally bumps into Gallant upon arriving in Torel, it's love at first sight for the two young people. But can their love survive jealousy, misunderstanding, sabotage, control-freak parents and a sacred and legendary Black-Eyed Pea test?"

The Princess and the Black-Eyed Pea is the largest production San Diego REPertory Theatre has ever presented at the Lyceum Theatre.

For more information visit www.sandiegorep.com.