Director Natalie Murtagh has done a fine job with Brisbane Arts Theatre’s children’s season production of Rapunzel.
Using the imaginative script of Eric Stedman, the youthful ensemble act, sing and dance an action-packed show with much to entertain.
Amy Mansinger as the incredibly long-haired girl imprisoned in the tower is an attractive and confident leading lady, as is Natalie Scott as her companion and tale-teller Pandora. As the witch Gothel, Samantha McLaughlin brings maturity and experience to the cast, commanding attention with every entry. Jarrad Lindsay is a pleasant and charming Prince.
Eashan Nakar as chief goblin supported by Andy Browne and Matt Shield wielding and voicing the goblin puppets add quirky humour. Sadness and desperation are well portrayed by Micah Rustichelli and Holly Slater as Rapunzel’s parents. Nik Singh shines as the Pirate Cat, featuring in an interesting sub-plot with Pandora.
Alex Watson as Rolf was my favourite performer, stamping his character on the role of the prince’s squire while not upstaging the principals. His sly humour and subtle double entendres gave the sprinkling of adults in the audience something to chuckle at.
There are elements of pantomime, with the audience encouraged to hiss and boo the villains and to cheer the heroes.
Pianist Patrick Daley is kept busy in providing musical support and he strikes just the right note.
Quality sets (Scott Lymbery), costumes (Tracey Leino & assistants), make-up, lighting (Nade Latif) and special effects (Ruben Stoney, Sean Dowling) all add to the excitement and mystery. No doubt assistant director Matt Shield contributed to the final effect, together with other members of the creative and production teams.
A couple of quibbles: The action at times slows down, creating some restlessness among the very young audience. Dialogue is sometimes hard to pick up, with more voice projection needed, and much of the singing is of average quality, with intonation sometimes shaky and words generally hard to discern. An exception is Samantha McLaughlin, who gives a nightclub-quality rendition of her number ‘Do unto others’.
Finally, (spoiler alert!) I was somewhat astonished to find that in this production of the well-known story Rapunzel becomes pregnant while imprisoned in the tower, following the visit of the prince (who quickly becomes her husband). She produces twins when the prince finally finds her. A little research revealed that this was in fact part of the original Grimm Brothers’ version of the story. (This kind of detail would be ideal to be included in ‘Director’s Notes’.)