Since Frances Hodgson Burnett's 1905 children's novel A Little Princess has been adapted for the stage many times (including by the author herself), and especially since it passed out of copyright, it is worth noting that the musical version under consideration here is not to be confused with the 1995 film that spawned a soundtrack album featuring Patrick Doyle's score, or with another musical version with songs by Edmond Mintz and Neil Minsky that produced an original studio cast album on Original Cast Records in 2004. This version of A Little Princess is entirely different from either of those albums; it has a song score with lyrics by Brian Crawley (who also wrote the musical book) and music by Andrew Lippa, best known for the Broadway musical The Addams Family. It was first staged by TheatreWorks in Mountain View, California, in 2004, but this is a studio cast recording made in 2009-2010; among the performers, Will Chase (as Captain Crewe), Remy Zaken (as Becky), and Jesse Nager (as Umbrella Man) were featured in that first stage production. A Little Princess is similar to Burnett's more famous novel, The Secret Garden (also the subject of multiple musical adaptations) in that it concerns a preadolescent girl in the 19th century born to British parents in the far-flung colonial empire, but then forced to travel to England alone. In this case, Sara Crewe, played by Sierra Boggess, is sent to a boarding school while her widowed father explores Africa. There she encounters a sympathetic servant girl, Becky, and a villainous headmistress, Miss Minchin, played by Julia Murney. Lippa has created a score that brings in elements of African music (notably in Sara's send-off number, "Good Luck, Bonne Chance" and "Timbuktu"), but is dominated by a pop/classical style influenced by Gilbert & Sullivan as well as Stephen Schwartz (Godspell, Pippin, Wicked). As in Gilbert & Sullivan's H.M.S. Pinafore, Queen Victoria, played by Morgan James, makes an appearance as the show's deus ex machina. But Sara's big songs, such as the "I want" number "Live Out Loud" and the first-act finale "Soldier On" have much the quality of the power ballads in Wicked. Naturally, the show also recalls such child-oriented musicals as Oliver! and Annie. (The Christmas carol "Almost Christmas," sung by a chorus of schoolgirls especially recalls these shows.) Crawley's lyrics are serviceable but cliché-ridden. The recording is well sung, especially by Boggess, who has plenty of singing to do. The creators no doubt hope to get the show on Broadway, but meanwhile it seems like an appealing property for middle schools and high schools, offering many good parts for girls.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann