The Princess and the Pauper
The Children’s Theatre of California faces a daily challenge. The person buying the tickets is a grown-up, but the target audience is under 12 years old. Adults are swayed by name identification; a show invoking a well-known book has a leg up with parents and teachers. Kids, however, giggle with glee when a fat man burps loudly.Playwright David Pierini realizes the need to convince grownups to open their wallets, but he also remains uniquely in touch with his inner child. So when he set about adapting Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper, Pierini kept the concept of “trading places” and then wrote his own tale.
Pierini works in almost as many guys-in-drag as the Sacramento Theatre Company’s popular panto Cinderella (which is idle this December). Twain’s prince is translated into a princess, broadening the story’s gender appeal. Pierini and director Jerry Montoya also conjure physical comedy with their cast in mind, like the scenes for Rick Kleber, who burps on a nearly volcanic scale.
There’s still a hint of Twain’s seditious humor—like the discussion of a grandiose arena (for jousting) to be built at the expense of the poor. But mostly, this one’s silliness and fun. Best not to try to push any comparisons between the show and the book.