Imagine if you will, all the giddiness of Sesame Street, the didactic intent of Mister Rogers with a dash of imagined cartoonishness of The Electric Company’s Letterman (minus the voice of Gene Wilder, but replaced by the buoyant, lilting cadence of Matthew Hoffman), and you’ve got Theatre West and Storybook theatre’s The Emperor’s New Clothes.
Set in a faraway land long before the hyped-out days of Abercrombie and Fitch (wherein nudity, or at the very least, all things sheer, are much more a fashion statement now than they’ve a right to be) and over a fortnight after the invention of the spinning wheel, this classic tale by Hans Christian Andersen is the perfect metaphor for the sale of many a bogus bill of goods via unscrupulous business moguls (and even bankers), shilled by shifty leaders unto the silly unsuspecting populace under-extreme-examination-of-the-epistemological-nature-of-excessive-eminence: and the kids should totally pick up on this allegory right away! But on the off chance said simile should fly over their heads, this musical adaptation by Lloyd J. Schwartz, David Wechter, and Philip Orem is just what the doctor ordered for all the toe tappin’ and knee slappin’ you and the kiddoes might ever hope to experience on an otherwise humdrum Saturday afternoon!
Words used to describe said spectacle–‘sprightly’ ‘giddy’ ‘magical’: Your kids will get the best of the best royal callisthenic workouts merely raising their hands at each and every opportunity to alight the enchanted Emperor’s perch for a one-two punch in audience participation!
Unscrupulous bankers notwithstanding, you will delight as the would-be swindlers inform the children of their evil plot (to disrobe the emperor by ‘enrobing’ him, then ultimately robbing him) only to have the entire theatre transmogrify itself into the most grandiose neighborhood crime watch meeting you’ve ever witnessed as children the audience/panel over try to warn the emperor of his impending fate! Yet our man the emperor’s clearly got a hearing impediment of some sort, quite possibly due to all the LOUD COLORS he WEARS!?!? (DU-UH!)
Constructed via relaxed fit waistband for the middle aged fella (aka “Dad Jeans”), copious amounts of pleats, gathers and the piece de resistance, the neck hair of varying and sundry mountain yaks, said raiments are just as light airy–and more to the point–invisible as Donald Trump’s hair—his REAL hair, that is, underneath the all-too prominent signature fuzz!
Aside from the above fashion fiasco, there is drama, suspense, comically bad trumpet playing mixed with that of the kazoo, and of course romance between the emperor’s daughter Princess Felicity and the not-so-swashbuckling (but perhaps swashkneebuckling) son-of-a femme-fatale in the form of Beatrice: Ronald. Most importantly, there is the all-too-important metaphor discussed above (the one the kids should *get* right away) and ultimately a nice little lesson in self worth!
Intermission is not like…just some random bathroom break, but a full-on cookie fest! And once the entire tale has been told, one can procure autographs of any and all characters, along with photos at the employ of mom and pop-arazzi!
Music composition by Philip Orem is upbeat, fun, and perfectly singable, particularly for that of a children’s audience. Moreover, one song in particular sounded just a trifle bit like Billy Idol’s Mony Mony-no joke! Oh yes parents of my generation—take HEED! You’ll know the jam once it commences!
Matthew Hoffman as The Emperor is positively magical-to-arresting and one cannot help crack a smile every time he opens his mouth. Like a vocal characterization of Papa Smurf I once heard as a child, the enchantment therein does nothing less than make one feel giddy. Ashley Kane as Princess Felicity is absolutely adorable. With eyes as wide and round as saucers with sense of adventure to match, hers is the perfect countenance to act as both heroine and hostess to the children’s impending crime fighting stint and fashion forward escapade! Bonnie Kalisher Dukes as Beatrice reminds me of something out of a Walt Disney Film and is the perfect would be villainess but with the heart of gold. James Patrick Cronin as the luggish but loveable Ronald is both sympathetic and somewhat intimidating-in the beginning anyway-and someone will inevitably need to whip him into shape!…albeit gently… Might Princess Felicity do a righteously well rounded job? Come see the performance to find out, and forget I even posed the question!
Please Note: The Emperor is also played by Lukas Bailey, Princess Felicity by Julie McCay, and Beatrice by Kathy Garrick on alternating days. So you may see the latter depending on when you attend.
Direction by David P. Johnson is clearly the rug that ties the room together (to inspire all dudes to abide) in all its colorful, cartoonish glory and it is clear he knows exactly what he is doing in more ways than one…
Through it all, the kids will tell, or try to tell the emperor many things concerning his fate and fashion choices, but above all somebody just might feel behooved to break down and inform him that he resembles something of a triad betwixt a Scarecrow, skinny Jack-o-Lantern, and Keith Partridge… Might it be your child…or someone’s, at least before the run is through…?
The Emperor’s New Clothes runs every Saturday at 1 pm until February 27th at Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, Los Angeles, CA 90068
Prices are a radtastic $12.00 for adults and $10.00 for children! Can ya digit?!?!
Additionally if you are a teacher and wish to bring your students, this production is also available for such purposes on weekdays!
For tickets and information, please call or visit: