"The Twelve Dancing Princesses" is long on colorful costuming, long on well- written music, long on clever characterizations, long on spectacle - and about 30 minutes too long.
It's fine family entertainment, but - in the back of my mind as I was watching it Saturday night during a "gala fund-raiser" at the Capitol Theatre - I hoped that, like an infernally long religious pageant on the West Coast, this locally written musical production wouldn't keep getting longer and longer every time the writers revise it."The Twelve Dancing Princesses" premiered last summer as an outdoor production in Sandy, after which Dorothy Keddington and her daughters and sister, Laura Bedore, Stephanie Clark and Kathleen Skidmore, added another song to a show that now contains 19 tunes.
Don't get me wrong, this is a bright, upbeat musical that should appeal to both children and adults, but most youngsters won't sit through a show that lasts nearly 2 1/2 hours. (The first act alone was almost 90 minutes long.) Based on a popular Grimms fairy tale, most stage and film versions trim the number of princesses back to only half a dozen, so it's nice to see the original intent and integrity of the story come through in this production.
It's a big show with a b-i-g cast: 53 performers, most of them on stage at the same time during some segments.
Bob Bedore, who is familiar as an actor to many Hale Center Theater fans, directed this production and also appears in a brief (but high profile) role as Don Juan Casanova, one of the 10 suitors anxious to determine why the King of Gavotte's 12 daughters' shoes are always in tatters every morning.
(I know what you're thinking - 10 official suitors plus 12 princesses doesn't compute. That's because a wandering soldier and the king's page are smitten with his eldest and youngest - Princess January and Princess December.) This show has the same problem that another recent independent production in town ("Jesus Christ Superstar") was hampered by. While the performers in leading roles are all excellent, those in secondary and walk-on roles pale by comparison. Fortunately, this unbalanced look was far less noticeable in "Princesses" than it was in "Superstar."
There were excellent performances from Mer-rill Dodge as the King, Gerry Graves as the Royal Shoemaker (we could say he put his heart and sole into the show, but we won't); Jonathan Stowers as the soldier (who masquerades as Prince Hugh McManly), Debbie Winegar and Amy Westerby as January and December, Nathan Smedley as the Page, Laura Bedore as the Witch, and Mary Ellen Thompson as Gwendolyn, the show's narrator.
The latter two were especially delightful and added considerable humor to the proceedings.
Composer Kathleen Skidmore also conducted the 27-member orchestra. The music was never intrusive and - something we don't always get in non-professional productions around here - always in tune.
Skidmore's score was a pleasant mix of ballads and upbeat tunes, including a couple of really campy numbers. Our favorite (and the audience's too) was the "Jailhouse Rock" sendup, "Chains of Love," sung and danced by the suitors, who have been confined to the dungeon.
Laura Bedore also designed the costumes and the sets. The costuming was bright and colorful. While the set was fairly simple (in order to move this particular production around to four different Davis County high schools), it worked very well. (Perhaps the "Enchanted Ball" sequence, which takes place deep in the forest, could have used a backdrop that was a little more forest-y, instead of uzilizing the same drop that had functioned nicely for both the throne room and the princesses' bedroom.) But this is a minor problem.
What "The Twelve Dancing Princesses" really need is some editing and fine-tuning. Some of the dance segments went on a little longer than necessary and, while the introduction of the suitors was clever, it could probably be pared back somewhat, too.
But, all in all, this show does have a generous share of the kind of storybook magic that children will find enthralling.- THIS PRODUCTION was mounted expressly as a fund-raiser for the Davis School District Foundation, with four performances on four subsequent weekends during April. However, if other groups or organizations are interested in booking performances, call 973-0869.