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Regional premiere of feelgood musical sees classic tale given African twist

PUBLISHED: 16:05 27 March 2018

Sara Aljana and Pasko in the cast of A Little Princess. Photo: Andrew Butler

Sara Aljana and Pasko in the cast of A Little Princess. Photo: Andrew Butler

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Easter sees Echo Youth Theatre stage A Little Princess, based on the classic children's novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett, but expanding the story to Africa with lively music and dance.

Echo Youth Theatre A Little Princess is at Open in Norwich. Photo: SubmittedEcho Youth Theatre A Little Princess is at Open in Norwich. Photo: Submitted

A Little Princess, by the author of The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett, is a truly magical story about the power of optimism in the face of adversity, which continues to enchant 112 years since its publication.

A dramatic reversal of the traditional ‘rags to riches’ formula, it tells the story of little Sara Crewe who brought from India to London to join Miss Minchin’s school, she arrives a princess - cloaked in velvet and feathers, surrounded by extravagant affection. Then disaster strikes; her father dies and his business fails, and Sara is cast into poverty.

It’s a much-loved story but this Easter families in Norfolk will have the chance to see the East Anglian premiere of a feelgood musical version, written by Tony-nominated composer/lyricist, Andrew Lippa, and Brian Crawley.

It will be the first production for new youth theatre company, Echo Youth Theatre, and their version of the tale has been given a unique twist for the show at Norwich’s Open venue.

The story has been expanded beyond the confines of Victorian England to Africa and includes lively African music and dance within its truly exhilarating and unique score.

Separated from her father in Africa, rather than the Indian setting of the book, young Sara is sent to boarding school but when things go badly for her, her imagination and story-telling help to transform a drab institution into a place of magic and mystery.

Sara Crewe and company in A Little Princess. Photo: Andrew ButlerSara Crewe and company in A Little Princess. Photo: Andrew Butler

As Sara wins the affection of the other boarders, she crosses Miss Minchin, the dour headmistress, who forces Sara to work as a maid, when her father is reported dead. Sara counters all of Miss Minchin’s best efforts to degrade her, while maintaining the grace and virtue of a little princess.

Echo Youth Theatre launched, in partnership with Open, in December with the aim of providing high quality theatre training and performance opportunities for young people, but without the burden of regular classes and termly fees.

Co-founder Dan Rayner said: “We believe that providing a variety of opportunities, working with a range of different directors, practitioners and artists enables our members to develop both as young people and as all-round performers. EYT works with some of Norfolk’s most talented creative teams to provide high quality productions plus a series of workshops throughout the year.”

A Little Princess has been put together by a dedicated team, many of them volunteers, including costume designers, costume makers, choreographers and lighting designers.

• A Little Princess is at Open, Bank Plain, Norwich, on April 5-7, 7.30pm, 2.30pm April 6/7, £15, £10 under-18s, 01603 763111, opennorwich.org.uk

• More about Echo Youth Theatre

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