Almost everyone remembers the nursery rhyme, “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair.” But what would happen if Rapunzel had to sheer off her braids because she had head lice?
So begins British award-winning Mike Kenny’s latest adaptation, produced with typical whimsy at the 24th St. Theatre and suitable for adults and children alike. Kenny reimagines Rapunzel during childrens’ evacuations to the British countryside in order to keep them safe from the blitz.
Our Rapunzel, named Lettie (Tara Alise Cox), is a of mixed race who is paired with Miss Pierce (Marie-Francoise Theodore), a woman of color in a small village who has met with discrimination there. Her fierce protection of Lettie for that reason, only increases the child’s loneliness. Lettie’s only companion is a cantankerous goose named Gertrude (a marvelous puppet controlled by puppeteer Matt Curtin).
But, at last, Lettie gains the friendship of Conrad, the mail carrier (William Leon), and the two of them eventually win Miss Pierce’s heart as well.
As with his other award-winning dramatic pieces, Kenny’s tale is simply told in broad strokes, ending with a heart-warming moral. Co-artistic director Debbie Devine, with Jesus Castanos-Chima, brings the play to life through wall-to-wall videography (by Matthew G. Hill), voice-overs (Kenny himself provides the narration) and the aforesaid goose!
Resident Producers Jay McAdams and Jennie McInnis rely on their seasoned designers to contribute to the kaleidoscopic sweep of the storytelling, including Dan Weingarten (Lighting…no mean feat in tandem with the video design); costuming by Shannon Kennedy; sound design by Jeff Gardner, and more.
As Miss Pierce, Ms. Theodore is sympathetic, if hard-driving. And Leon as Conrad hits just the right notes as he navigates between village prejudices and curiosity. As Lettie, Tara Cox portrays a child of true grit who shares the heritage of more old-school heroines as Sarah Crewe and Mary Lennox. She has one flaw, though; she has never learned to read. Since this point is crucial to the plot, everyone accepts her condition without comment.
The teacher in me, however, rebels, purely because in one crucial scene, Lettie traces her own signature on a windowpane. Ah hah! She is a “whole word” reader! Since the plot would be completely obliterated by such an enlightened turn of plot, I suppose I’ll just have to wait for the sequel to this well-turned version of Rapunzel Alone.
Rapunzel Alone plays at the Wallis (9390 N Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90210) from Saturday, March 12that 7 pm, Sunday at 2 pm, and Wednesday through Friday at 7 pm, and Saturday at 2 pm and 7 pm before continuing at the 24th St. Theatre, Saturdays at 7:30 pm and Sundays at 3:00 pm through April 30th, 2022.
Find the 24th Street Theatre at 1117 W. 24th St., Los Angeles CA 90007. Proof of vaccination and/or negative covid test, and masks are required. Tickets available on a sliding scale at the 24th St. location; $25 at the Wallis. For all ticket sales, phone (213) 745-6516, or www.24thstreet.org.