The Next Fairytale at Celebration Theatre

A workshop showcase in 2008 yielded a promising musical number from a young songwriter. The witty duet featured a fairy godmother and a gay prince. It was filled with clever innuendos that solicited a roar of laughter from the audience, including this reviewer. It made sense that Celebration Theatre might consider developing it into its very first fully developed in-house production.

Almost three years later, the finished product has been fleshed out, but it still needs work.

The story centers on a fairy godmother named Hazel (Rachel Genevieve) who is given a chance to redeem herself in The Next Fairy Tale after botching Little Red Riding Hood by arriving late, thereby allowing the wolf to eat up the nice little girl and her poor grandmother.

Aided by the headmistress fairy godmother Minerva (Gina Torrecilla), the next fairy tale turns out to be a prince-on-prince story, much to Minerva’s chagrin.

After her last outing in make believe land, Hazel lacks confidence, but the winsome Prince Copernicus (Christopher Maikish) has enough faith for both of them, convincing her that together that they can rescue the fair Prince Helio (Patrick Gomez) — that is, unless Minerva gets her way.

Brian Pugach has taken on a lot, writing the music, book, and lyrics. Even Sondheim avails himself of experienced book writers, and Mr. Pugach spreads himself dangerously thin attempting all three. He starts out well enough with the opening number, but from there, and aside from some highlights, the music falls into an everyday sameness that, while setting his lyrics adroitly, fails to distinguish itself compositionally.

The language of fairy-speak (“Holy toadstools” and “toad slime”) clashes with corny Friends-of-Dorothy winks at gay culture. The story is convoluted, mixing up different fairy tales while straying too far from the primary focus of the story. And what exactly is the story? Definitely the story is enhanced exploring Minerva’s arc (with Ms. Torrecilla’s star turn as the antagonist of this fairy tale), but the main story concerning the quest to save Prince Helio falls short. What we get instead is like the Yellow Brick Road with local stops and day trips.

The show borrows from other musicals, losing its soul in the process. It’s a mash-up of ideas that need sorting, focusing and arranging before anything resembling a cohesive play emerges. At times it’s hard to decide if the intended audience is gay adults, in which case the underlying theme of acceptance preaches to the choir, or adults in general — already a far more sophisticated audience than this work seems to target. That leaves it open for children’s theatre, but for that to happen, it would need some serious toning down.

The cast, however, is excellent. The actors attack their roles with much gusto. Director Michael A. Shepperd evokes an epic feel on the small Celebration stage. As for that witty song first heard in workshop – the one that showed the promise that this show was designed to deliver, it didn’t make the cut.

Too bad, it had such potential.


About Obed Medina
Obed received his BA in Creative Writing from the University of California at Riverside. He has freelanced and volunteered at various theatre companies in Los Angeles since 2002. He launched his own workshop theatre company in 2008 and has produced six original one-act plays and one Off-Broadway hit. Currently, he is living in Ashland, Oregon working on his writing and founder of Collaborative Theatre Project.

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