‘The Little Prince’ brings wonder and imagination

by Hugh Hunter
Posted 12/14/23

"The Little Prince, The Musical" is the second show in the holiday season offering of Quintessence Theatre.

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‘The Little Prince’ brings wonder and imagination


"The Little Prince, The Musical" is the second show in the holiday season offering of Quintessence Theatre. It is directed by Kyle Metzger and runs in a rotating repertoire with "The Fantasticks." The two musicals add novelty to traditional fare and strive to capture a child-like sense of wonder that appeals to the entire family.

The musical is based on "The Little Prince" by Antoine De Saint-Exupery, with book and lyrics by John Scoullar and Music by Rick Cummins. An aviator crashes in the Sahara Desert. Stranded with his damaged plane, he encounters The Little Prince, a space traveler who alights to Earth en route to his home planet.

As Aviator, Jered McLenigan is annoyed and entranced by his surprise companion. Little Prince interferes with his repairing the aircraft (a model airplane – props by Amanda Hatch – enlists your imagination). Little Prince also piques his curiosity with his eerie presence and strange celestial stories.

Little Prince tells Aviator about himself. On his home planet, he was in love with Rose, a solitary red beauty. Meagan Kimberly Smith uses her fine soprano to embrace herself in adoration. Injured by the self-absorption of his beloved, Little Prince searches the universe for guidance.

He travels to many planets, each inhabited by just one man. With help from Costume Designer Anna Sorrentino, Colleen Welsh plays them all in rapid succession – King, Lamplighter, Vain Man, Business Man, Geographer. The universe is their pumpkin patch, each one comically selfish in a distinctive way. The voyage to Earth is Little Prince's final stop.

Jacinta Yelland is a striking Little Prince. Lithe with effortless agility, the character appears and disappears on stage like a sprite, (Choreographer,  Kyle Brand). Yelland's tremulous face shines with yearning radiance whenever she looks skyward. Her slender soprano falls short of true pitch and on occasion breaks. Yet Yelland articulates clearly and the singing accents her delicacy, helping you believe her Little Prince is a searching boy with a changing voice.

The show uses the same "Thrust Stage" designed by Meghan Jones for "The Fantasticks", and Lily Fossner again provides the light design. Other contributors are unique to this production. Luke McGinnis is the Music Director. In a tour-de-force, he composes the score and also performs in a one-man band – piano, percussion, guitar, bells.

Antoine De Saint-Exupery  

"The Little Prince" (1943) is Saint-Exupery's best-known work. He took a "le mot juste" approach to his writing. Yet he distrusted the sufficiency of language, and his children's novella is full of his watercolor illustrations. Banned by the Vichy government, its fame mushroomed after the war. Today "Little Prince" is one of the world's most-sold books, translated into 100s of languages. 

Alas, Saint-Exupery did not live to witness its success. A war pilot for the French military, he emigrated to the environs of New York City after France's surrender. There he wrote "The Little Prince". He returned to France to fight and was killed in a surveillance flight over the Mediterranean, just weeks before D-Day and the liberation of Paris.

What "The Little Prince" means is an open question. The author's friends, foes and lovers are entwined in the story. Like Aviator, Saint-Exupery suffered a plane crash in the Sahara Desert. Under the spell of Little Prince, the Aviator recovers his love for drawing, and some see the novela as Saint-Exupery's allegory about finding life's meaning in the wonders of his childhood.

The Secret 

The show is slow to start. Flower-clad Rose and her self-celebration are engaging. Why Little Prince feels so horribly betrayed is not as compelling. You wish director Kyle Metzger would tease out the comical vainglory of the solitary planet dwellers a bit more.

The show picks up in Act 2 when Fox takes over the stage. Actor Matthew Wautier-Rodriquez is husky, but when he dons his fox mask he is transformed into a quirky, almost gymnastic figure. You almost believe he is a fox! (Again, Kyle Brand, choreographer).

Fox and Little Prince win each other's trust. He shares "The Secret" with Little Prince; it is the signature line of the story:  "One sees clearly only with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eye." Aglow with this insight, Little Prince's search is over.


"The Little Prince" is the second of two Holiday Season musicals at Quintessence. In its family orientation, both need to appeal equally to children and adults. While both do, "The Fantasticks" is so magically alive it leaves even young children gap-mouthed in wonder.

Staging "The Little Prince" is the greater challenge. It is a children's book that leans on watercolors to enhance its fantasy. Turning "Little Prince" into a musical does not resolve the tension between its neo-gnostic claim to an ineffable mystery, and the reduction of this mystery to a simple aphorism.

"The Little Prince" is a better show for older children who can identify with the hero's coming-of-age. In its dare that "grownups" re-examine values, you suspect Saint-Exupery would appreciate the drawings that appear like magic on stage screens as the Aviator reclaims his boyhood vitality.

Quintessence Theatre is located at 7135 Germantown Ave. "The Little Prince" will run through 31 December. Tickets available at 215-987-4450 or www.quintessencetheatre.org