Royal Festival Hall, London
After the recent success in the UK of Big Fish and The Addams Family, Andrew Lippa’s lesser-known show A Little Princess has had its UK premiere at the Southbank Centre. Telling the story of Sara Crewe, a girl sent from Africa to a boarding school in London where she meets mean girls and a strict headmistress, this is a sweet story, with melodically beautiful songs and a heartwarming moral.
As Miss Minchin, the headmistress who’s a melange of Miss Trunchbull, Mrs Lovett, Mdme. Thenadier and others, Amanda Abbington is good. In her musical theatre debut, she does well to convey the tiredness of the character but lacks menace. Vocally she is a little lacking and tends to speak-sing but still gives a pretty solid performance and I look forward to seeing her tackle other future stage roles in the genre.
Danny Mac is dashing as ever as Captain Crewe, with wonderful vocals alongside a sweet connection with the children of the cast. The pacing of the show itself is funny and means that all the characters are a little under-developed. We get to see a lot of Captain Crewe at the start but as the show goes on (especially in Act 2) everything feels rushed. With some rewri,tes this could be a lovely show and it would be great to see Mac having a bit more time to shine. Mention must go to his stellar performance in the patter song-esque, ‘Timbuktu’.
Equally deserving of more time to shine is the stunning Rebecca Trehearn who always manages to steal her scenes. As Miss Amelia, the ditsy sister of Miss Minchin, she gives a wonderfully humourous performance and shines in her solo, ‘Once Upon a Time’.
Alexia Khadime and Adam J Bernard as Aljana and Pasko give vocally stunning performances despite being a little overpowered by the orchestra at times.
This was the first production which had actual children playing the children and it was them who stole the show. All the young cast did a great job of owning their roles, with Jasmine Nituan giving a heartfelt, funny performance as Sara’s best friend and maid, Becky.
Jasmine Sakyiama is truly a star in the making. Her performance as Sara Crewe was 100 miles a minute from the start with her vocals and emotive facial expressions never failing. Of all the children, Jasmine also had the strongest diction which made her stand out even further. Keep an eye on this girl because she’s going to go far!
Nic Farman’s lighting added a mystical, magical vibe to the story which was lovely and took the show from a simple concert to an emotive production.
Despite enjoying this production, it does need some edits. I’m no one to say what these edits should be, but Act 2 felt extremely rushed and there were a number of moments that felt unnecessary/over-extended. However, the cast were great and I hope this isn’t the last we see of this sweet show in the UK.