Lippa and Crawley's Little Princess Musical Aims for Developmental Run and Bway; Schulman Attached

News   Lippa and Crawley's Little Princess Musical Aims for Developmental Run and Bway; Schulman Attached
The development of a new musical version of "A Little Princess," Frances Hodgson Burnett's children's literature classic, is continuing toward a 2004 out-of-town tryout and an eventual Broadway run.

Heidi Ettinger and Dodger Stage Holding are producing A Little Princess, with music by Andrew Lippa (The Wild Party at Manhattan Theatre Club) and book and lyrics by Brian Crawley (Violet).

Susan H. Schulman, who helmed the popular Broadway musical of another Burnett classic, The Secret Garden, will direct, according to the composer.

Ettinger and The Dodgers, the producers with a hand in 1991's The Secret Garden, "are continuing to work on the book and score and are looking for an appropriate developmental production out of town prior to locking in the Broadway dates," according to a spokesperson for the Dodgers.

In recent months, Lippa has publicly performed "Live Out Loud," one of the songs from the musical story of Sara Crewe, "a little girl with a great big imagination," according to Lippa's website.

"Separated from her father, and the open-hearted Africans who have helped him raise her, young Sara Crewe is sent to boarding school in London," according to notes on "When things go badly for her there, her imaginative powers come to the rescue – helping to transform a drab institution into a place of magic and mystery. As the girl wins the affection of the other boarders she draws the ire of Miss Minchin, the dour headmistress. Sara is made a servant to the institution when her father is reported dead, and his fortune seized. Sara counters all Miss Minchin's best efforts to degrade her with the grace and virtue of a little princess." Lippa said that this new stage version of the tale shifts the action to the early 19th-century rather than the 1880s. Like the book, the show is aimed at kids, or what producers call "family audiences."

"It's very much for all ages," Lippa told Robert Viagas in a late November "Sirius Sessions" concert-interview for the Sirius Satellite Network. "It's a wonderful thing that Brian [Crawley] did: The book takes place in colonial India and Victorian England the 1880s. Our show takes place in colonial Africa in 1839 with the race for Timbuktu, which was a thing between England and France, at the beginning of Queen Victoria's reign. Queen Victoria, she herself was a little princess: She was 17 years old when she assumed the throne. So Queen Victorian actually plays a prominent role in the show. It goes back and forth between Africa and England in the early part of Queen Victoria's reign, so it's a really cool juxtaposition of those two cultures and musical styles as well."

The complete Lippa interview will be rebroadcast on "Radio Playbill" on Sirius starting Jan. 12.

The 1905 story by the British-born American writer Burnett is now in the public domain (the rights are now public), and therefore has been adapted a number of times for the musical stage, but never to a high-profile Broadway run. (A search of the internet will produce a catalog of "Little Princess" musicals.)

Shirley Temple appeared in a film version called "The Little Princess." A 1995 film, "A Little Princess," moved the action to the U.S. during World War I.

Susan H. Schulman is also directing the new musical, Little Women, another family-friendly show. The producers of that show intend to premiere the show regionally in fall 2004 before bringing it to Broadway in late 2004.

Whether or not two Little musicals with young heroines at their core will compete on Broadway in the same season is yet to be seen.

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