Review by Marilyn Lester
The ancient tradition of the folk tale has long-provided fertile ground for adaptation. Stephen Sondheim’s notable example, “Into The Woods,” combines the stories of several well-known tales. In “Rapunzarella White,” authors June Rachelson-Ospa (book and lyrics) and Daniel Neiden (music) have constructed a kind of mini-me of that 1986 Sondheim mashup.
The story follows the destinies of Rapunzel, Cinderella, and Snow White, triplets stolen from their mother, Millicent, played by Alice Van Heusen, by her sister, Winifred, played by Marlain Angelides, in retribution for the theft of a boyfriend. Winifred, transformed into a witch, casts an evil spell on the three infants, hurling them into their own fairy tales.
The setup for this fractured tale is told by – wait for it – Herschel, the Fairy “Tailor.” Complete with Yiddish accent, Herschel, who claims to be a dwarf, is played by the nearly six-foot and aptly named Mark Singer. Herschel explains what’s to come in the opening number, “Oy Vey.” While kids may miss the subtleties of this ethnic gambit, the “folksbeine” spin and punning provide adults – especially New Yorkers of a certain age – with something to laugh about.
Running at a kid-friendly 60 minutes, there are levels of folkloric nonsense and bits that will appeal to all ages. Younger kids especially find the physical humor most appealing. Physicality is a large part of the show, and director Neiden has wisely made it so. “Rapunzarella White” is performed without a set, and with a limited number of props; it’s up to the actors by virtue of exaggerated movement (and the necessity of excellent annunciation) to convey the story line. This they do with varying degrees of success. The strongest member of the cast is Angelides, whose authoritative witch is one you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark wood anytime soon.
True to convention, the triplets – Rapunzel in her tower, played by Deanna Giuletti; the abused step-child, Cinderella, played by Van Heusen; and the apple-poisoned Snow White, played by Schuyler Midgett – can only be released from the curse when three Princes find them and simultaneously declare their love for the girls. The mean old witch may think that’s an impossibility, but we know better, especially since the Fairy Tailor has promised a happy ending.
The three heroes who save the day are King Rosenbutter’s boys (Singer doubles as the King), the bumbling but charming Princes Barry, Beau and Burly Bob, played respectively by Matthew Joshua Cohen, Brandon Duncan and Justin Chesney. With plenty of comic turns, and helped along by Herschel and a little magic, goodness prevails, with lessons learned, wrongs righted and love triumphant. But life is not perfect, and that’s a subtle lesson that unfolds too. Fairy Tailor Herschel makes good on his promise of a happy ending, but alas, he’s still a dwarf and always will be.
The enthusiastic, energetic and committed cast relate sensitively to children in the audience, encouraging them to learn, laugh and be enchanted. Pianist Noriko Sunamoto, under Music Supervisor Charles Czarnecki, plays with fervor, assisted with percussion by Justin Chesney. Production Stage Managers are Derek Bado and Veronica Peredes. “Rapunzarella White” is produced by Bozomoon Productions in association with The Telling Company.
Rapunzarella White, Saturdays at 1 pm and Sundays at 12 pm through May 10, 2015
13th Street Repertory Theater, 50 West 13th St., 212-352-3101, www.13thstreetrep.org