Broadway Review: THE LITTLE PRINCE (The Broadway Theatre)

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by Kevin Vavasseur on April 20, 2022

in Theater-New York


Once upon a time there was an aviator. One day, the aviator’s plane crash landed in the Sahara Desert. The aviator survived but his plane was damaged. After landing, the aviator soon met a little prince from another planet — a planet so small it only held a rose, some shrubs, maybe a sheep, possibly a chair and the little prince. The little prince and the aviator spent eight days together in the desert and the little prince regaled the aviator with stories of his adventures visiting other planets in the Universe. In exchange, the aviator — a frustrated artist — drew simple pictures of objects the little prince wanted and, somehow, those objects manifested in reality. On the eighth day, the little prince returned to his home planet, a sad occasion indeed as the little prince and the aviator had grown very fond of each other. They had also taught each other about life and love, deeply enriching both their lives. The little prince mysteriously ascended into the heavens and the aviator never saw him again. However, whenever the aviator missed his friend, he would gaze into the night sky hoping to catch a glimpse of the little prince in the stars.

Laurisse Sulty (The Rose) and Lionel Zalachas (The Little Prince)
Chris Mouron (The Narrator, front center) and the Company

Or something like that. It doesn’t actually matter. For the current Broadway Theatre extravaganza The Little Prince is not beholden to or seemingly much interested in the linear narrative of this children’s classic by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. It is an adaption of this world-renowned tale, but only in the most basic sense. “Inspired by” is a more apt description, for librettist Chris Mouron takes the basic elements of the book and expands or deconstructs or elevates or reinterprets them all — turning each one into standalone, movement-centered, set piece. Some of which are stunning. Others, not so much.

Lionel Zalachas (The Little Princecenter) and the Company

The story itself is just one element of a night where everything has equal value creating a new whole. Dance, song, acrobatics, costumes, projections and, yes, story combine to transform this sweet book from children’s literature into something akin to a Hollywood blockbuster. The English text/narration is presented on screens concurrently with the performance so the actual words, i.e. word as signifying object, become just another part of the conglomerate entertainment. The production is not a Broadway Show in any sense of our understanding of that term; housing it in a four-walled, proscenium playing space does this show a great disservice. For it would be better-suited in an arena or a Cirque du Soleil tent in order to best present this often thrilling, polished, entertaining creation.

Antony Cesar (The Vain Man) and Lionel Zalachas (The Little Prince)
Aurélien Bednarek (The Aviator)

The cast is full of young, extremely well-trained dancer/acrobats. The only verbalized speech comes from the Narrator, serviceably played by the librettist, Ms. Mouron. For the Narrator doesn’t so much lead the piece as function as a voice for all, because the other performers communicate only through physicality. Ms. Mouron speaks all of the story exposition and character dialogue. Which is fine because movement, dance and physicality are what this show is really about; from that standpoint, all of the performers excel. Particularly Lionel Zalachas as The Little Prince, Laurisse Sulty as The Rose, Aurélien Bednarek as The Aviator, and Antony Cesar as the Vain Man. Zalachas and Sulty dance an incredibly beautiful pas de deux and Cesar is sheer courage and athleticism in his aerial work.

Aurélien Bednarek (laying down), Chris Mouron, (back), Lionel Zalachas (on ball)

Actually, all the performers excel in whatever genre the choreography of Anne Tournié demands of them. Her mastery of contemporary dance is evident in the joyful, exciting and sensitive nature of her work and the breadth of her choreographic styles. Aeriel staging by Foy is heart-stopping and sometimes drew gasps from the audience. Ms. Tournié also serves as the show’s co-director with Mouron and, unfortunately, this is not their area of expertise. There is a semblance of a cohesive story but very difficult to follow if one is not recently familiar with the book. Each number is its own act; together, they begin to meld into one another as they often have similar energy, if different moves. The production would do well to revisit the structure of the book where the chapters are of varying lengths and moods, not each one trying to dazzle or overwhelm.

Lionel Zalachas (The Little Prince)

While too long for the little ones, The Little Prince could be a fun night out depending on one’s preferences. If you like a clear, linear story – this is probably not for you. If you can step into this theater without any expectation and avail yourself to the experience happening around you as it happens, you might feel as much wonder and joy as that little blonde-haired fellow in the yellow overalls has when balancing on top of his planet.

photos by Joan Marcus © 2022

The Little Prince
Broadway Entertainment Group
Broadway Theatre, 1681 Broadway
opened Monday, April 11; reviewed April 14, 2022 | 1 hour 55 minutes
for tickets, visit The Little Prince and Telecharge
closed May 8, 2022

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