Audiences familiar with Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale may
wonder how Chicago Shakespeare Theater handles "sensitive" material
in its new production. After all, doesn't the Emperor end up naked
at the end of the story? Without giving anything away, I shall just
say this production turns the story upside down, adding characters,
music and a good deal of humor.
With the addition of a smart and sassy daughter (Sam) for the
Emperor, plus a hilarious mother/son combo as the tailors named
Swindler, the show's writers are able to create a familiar
parent-child tension that drives the show's plot. Sam and her
father disagree about everything, especially clothes.
The entire cast's musical talent and comedic timing make for a
great show. As the Emperor, Don Forston is completely believable,
especially as a slightly bumbling fairy-tale ruler. Likewise, Megan
Long as Sam and Alex Goodrich as Kim Swindler bring such youthful
energy to their roles that kids in the audience forget these are
adults. On the other end of the spectrum, Jonathan Weir exudes
hysterical evil vibes as the conniving Lord Vince.
Well-timed physical comedy, bright costumes and fun melodies
engage young children, while the snarky lyrics and subtext will
keep adults laughing. My kids loved Kim's obsession with modern
technology, such as texting and Web design. They related to his
frustration with his mom, who doesn't quite grasp the power of the
My sons also loved collecting autographs after the show. After
matinee, several actors graciously appear in costume to sign
programs and pose for pictures. My 8- and 9-year-olds scrambled for
signatures, while my 5-year-old hid behind my legs, eyeing mean
Lord Vincent warily, a great compliment to his performance even
after the curtain call.
Alena Murguia lives in Berwyn, Illinois along with her husband and three growing sons.
See more of Alena's stories here.
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