A Brothers Grimm classic fairy tale that we all heard as children, RAPUNZEL ALONE delivers a very modern message for today’s kids – and grown-ups. In a production geared to both children and adults, RAPUNZEL ALONE is a sophisticated re-imagining of the children’s story about an isolated young lady with the over-long tresses and her introduction to the world of people and love. Commissioned by the 24th Street Theatre and written by Olivier Award-winning playwright Mike Kenny, the world premiere of RAPUNZEL ALONE was preceded six month ago by a fascinating free audio version for those whose creative juices were stimulated by the chance to imagine three-dimensional characters from their words alone. Now this charming tale has morphed into a visual delight offered onstage through an artistic partnership between the 24th Street Theatre and the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts.
Loosely inspired by the famous children’s story, RAPUNZEL ALONE tells a tale for contemporary viewers. The time is 1944, and the place is England. It’s the heart of World War II, and bombs are shattering the formerly peaceful existence of Londoners. This is a dangerous time to be in London, and Lettie’s parents are well aware of the peril as both are on the front lines of the conflict. Like so many other loving parents in London, they must make the painful decision to send their 12-year-old daughter to safety by evacuating her to a farm in the bucolic British countryside.
But is Lettie (Tara Alise Cox) ready for this experience? She’s a city-born and bred mixed race youngster who has never been away from her parents before. And especially not in a rural homogeneous agrarian community where she will feel isolated, alone, and forced to cope with new and scary surroundings on the farm owned by the fierce and very independent Ms. Pierce (Marie-Francoise Theodore), herself an immigrant from Jamaica. Lettie may just have found her isolated tower as Ms. Pierce chops off Lettie’s locks and demands that she stay away from everyone for miles around. Will her best friends become the aggressive, cantankerous goose Gertrude, three little goslings, and the chatty mailman Conrad (William Leon)?
Narrated by award-winning playwright Mike Kenny, RAPUNZEL ALONE captures the spirit of a fairy tale for kids and brings it into the twentieth century at a time when the world is at war – both with a virus which has proven more destructive than “guns-blazing” combat and a very real war where tanks, missiles, cluster bombs, and well-armed soldiers invade a peaceful country. A world where teens may have become insulated from outside events through immersion in social media and internet gaming. Co-directors Debbie Devine and Jesus Castanos Chima imbue their characters with the mettle and spunk needed to overcome mountainous obstacles. As an adjunct to both the in-person performances and the audio recording, “Lettie’s Journal,” a hauntingly beautiful visual record of the character’s experiences, is available for both online viewing and digital download.
Congratulations to the cast and crew of this creative epic. Thanks to careful and caring direction and the exemplary talents of the cast – with a special nod to Marie-Francoise Theodore – and the clever, creative contributions of the production crew (scenic designer Keith Mitchell; video designer Matthew G. Hill; lighting designer Dan Weingarten; sound designer Jeff Gardner; costume designer Shannon Kennedy; graphic designer Tara Nitz), RAPUNZEL ALONE is the perfect example of a creative production which extends active imagination to its limits. And let’s not forget about puppeteer Matt Curtin, who brings Gertrude the Goose alive! Kudos to the 24th Street Theatre and the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts for making this production available to Los Angeles audiences. This is a not-to-be-missed show which brings magic and enchantment back to the theater. AUDIENCE ALERT: Proof of full vaccination OR a negative PCR test result within 48 hours OR a verifiable antigen test within 24 hours is required to enter the theater; masks must be worn throughout the performance.
RAPUNZEL ALONE played in the 24th Street Theatre from February 25 through March 5, 2022; Spanish supertitles were included. At the Wallis, RAPUNZEL ALONE is presented from March 12 through March 19, 2022. The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts is located at 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90210. Tickets are $25. For reservations, call 310-746-4000 or go online.