Although Halloween has just passed us by, one could not have wished for a lovelier parade of costumes (designer, Caroline Dignes) than the one found last weekend in The Woodlands High School’s very entertaining production of Greg Atkins’ jolly play, “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” directed by Larry Wood. Though billed as a production aimed at a young audience, it was great fun for we grownups as well. In fact, let me take that one step further and say the show was often hilarious.
The opening frozen tableau of townspeople, seen through a scrim, looked like a lovely medieval painting (lighting designer, Travis Smith, even provided sparkle-ball starlight between each scene). Pleasant musical interludes help to set the period atmosphere. The attractive set (designer, Alejandro Fajardo) places us squarely in a colorful medieval town. And color is the operative word for both the cleverly three-dimensional set and the lavish and often merrily outlandish costumes. The overall look of the piece is a pleasant reminder of the kind of brilliant Technicolor that made films like “The Wizard of Oz” so dazzling. The story, of course, revolves around two peasant scam artists, Young Roland (Collin Marshall), and his Father (Zac Klammer). Strangers to the town, they set about convincing the Emperor that they are master weavers who can prepare such an extraordinary garment that foolish and stupid people will be unable to see it. Klammer gives a smooth and polished performance as the conniving father, and tells Young Roland, “There are people who work, and then there are people who think!” This setup leads to considerable merriment as all in the court pretend to see the cloth lest they be considered fools.
Speaking of the Emperor’s court, let us consider that amusing cast of characters. Blaine Derrick had comic flair as the trumpeting Page. Full-voiced Remy Colton is a scene-stealer on more than one occasion in his uproarious performance as the Minister of Fashion. Banging his staff of office and bellowing his announcements with riotous pomposity, even his halting and grandiose walk added to the fun. What a delightful ham!
Then we have a delicious parade of the Emperor’s fashion consultants, each arrayed in outlandish costumes and equally amusing make-up (designers, Emma Bullock and Sidney Rascoe), and hairdos (designers, Maddie Landers and Taylor Neville). There was the Sultan of Style (David Solis), the Duchess of Dressing Up (Elise Petrosky resembling a giggling Marie Antoinette), the Grand Poobah of Toiletries (Zac Brooks), the Overlady of Overdressing (Jessica Stanfield in a getup that Cher would have loved), and the Underlord of Underwear (Daniel Vasquez). Then too, there was a fine opening display of exotic dancing by several unidentified but very talented young ladies in the cast. The choreography included scarf juggling, sword twirling, and a group tambourine dance (with Greek-style music) that may have been the best since the sheik’s daughters danced for Charlton Heston in “Ben-Hur.” It surprised me that no choreographer was acknowledged in the printed program.
As for the Emperor (James Canfield), one need only picture something of a mincing cross between Liberace and Dolly Parton (Oh, that wig!) Clearly, Canfield had great fun with the role, and the audience had great fun watching this over-the-top and camp performance, which in one costume resembled Latin bombshell, Carmen Miranda, fruit headdress and all.
For a bit of romance, Young Roland falls in love with the peasant girl, Mary (sweetly played by Bethany Sommers). Mary’s pesky younger sister, Sarah (Caitlin Ferraro), their over-worked mother, Esther (Rachael Camp), and the elderly chicken lady, Henrietta (Mary Moore Lowenfield), nicely round out a talented cast that included still more actors as townspeople. Of course there are laughs aplenty as the emperor decides everyone in town should wear this invisible clothing, and so it was said, “They all lived happily ever after, except when it was cold!”
(The Courier 11.10.06)