Review: The Light Princess in Concert, Cadogan Hall

RATING: ★★★★★

I had the pleasure of seeing the absolutely delightful concert version of The Light Princess at Cadogan Hall recently. The show's music and lyrics are written by Tori Amos with a book (and lyrics) by Samuel Adamson. This concert staging was produced by Club 11 and the Alex Parker Theatre Company, whose work I always love.

When I saw that Hadley Fraser and Rosalie Craig were doing this back in February, I immediately booked for the chance to see them in a show together. When the additional casting (Louis Maskell, Gabrielle Brooks, Trevor Dion Nicholas) was announced, I was so pleased that I already had a ticket to see this amazing cast. However, I found myself falling in love with this beautiful, unconventional, feminist fairytale itself by a few numbers in.

The show is based on a fairytale written by George MacDonald in 1867. The original production was at the National Theatre back in 2013 and developed a near cult following, even extending past their original run. It was directed by Marianne Elliot, whose work I admire and whose revival of Company I'm so sad to be missing. A cast album was released in 2015 that I really need to listen to!

The tale is about two kingdoms that are at odds, called Lagobel and Sealand. Both countries have suffered the loss of their queens and both kings have become cold and hard in response. However, the royal children have reacted very differently. Princess Althea of Lagobel rejects the sadness that plagues the kingdom after her mother's death and as a result, gravity loses its effect on her and she floats in the air. Her father locks her in a tower with the orphan Piper to focus on his eldest son and heir. 

Meanwhile, the kingdom suspects that the King of Sealand may have killed his wife and thus do not risk publicly mourning for her. Her eldest son Prince Digby becomes morose and never smiles and is known as the "Solemn Prince of Sealand". When the two meet, they find themselves feeling for the first time in years but can they make it work when their kingdoms are at war and they both have unfeeling fathers to stand up to?

Cadogan Hall is a beautiful venue, so any concert staged there is going to be a wonderful experience. I also appreciate anything that Alex Parker conducts as he's a joy to watch. The concert staging did make the plot a bit difficult to follow at times, but luckily there's a fairly comprehensive summary on Wikipedia! 

The music for the show features a wide range of sounds, some of it very traditional musical theatre, some more poppy, and some that almost seem to have alternative influences. A lot of the numbers are very narrative and company driven; there are actually few proper solos in the show. My personal favorites included "Gravity", "Darkest Hour", and "The Whistleblower". "Nothing More Than This" brilliantly showed off Rosalie and Hadley's voices and "Bitter Fate", which is largely a duet between Prince Digby and his younger brother Llewelyn, is my favorite number of the entire show. 

Rosalie Craig reprised her role as Princess Althea and was absolutely astounding. I'd seen Rosalie before in The Ferryman, but had never seen her in a musical and she blew me away. From her stunning vocals to her compelling acting, it was a flawless performance. I loved that she gave Althea real character. She was even perhaps a bit bratty at times, not at all your typical princess. I also enjoyed seeing Rosalie applaud for all her co-stars from the stage; you could feel her love for the show!

Hadley Fraser has been one of my favorite actors for many years, so I jumped at the chance to get to see him in a show with his wife. The two of them are also alums of the Donmar Warehouse, where they've both done numerous shows so it was exciting to see them in something together. Hadley's voice was so well suited for this music; it sounded like the feeling of being wrapped up in a warm blanket. (Does that even make sense?) Hadley brings an intelligence and a dignity to all of his roles that I thought was so well suited to Prince Digby. 

I recently saw Gabrielle Brooks in the Donmar's The Way of the World, but had no idea that she could sing so gorgeously. I felt that she stole every scene she was in as Piper, Althea's best friend. Her song with King Darius was a highlight of the whole show.

You might know Louis Maskell from The Grinning Man, but it was great to see him as Digby's younger brother Llewelyn. His vocals were beautiful as always and his voice blended particularly well with Hadley's. It was a small role, but a rather nice one, and he definitely made the most of it.

Another small role, the Falconer, was played by Laura Pitt Pulford, a name I've often heard but I'd never seen her in anything before. Her parts were another highlight of the show as she has a beautiful voice and, I have to say, her dress was gorgeous.

Trevor Dion Nicholas, best known for playing the Genie, played King Darius, Althea's father. I was so impressed with how wonderful his acting was, especially for a concert staging, and his voice was of course astounding. I loved seeing King Darius's character arc over the course of the show.

Seeing the concert at Cadogan Hall made me wish I'd been in the UK to see the full staging of The Light Princess at the National Theatre as the photos I've seen make it look incredible. However, it was a wonderful night out that reminded me that this gorgeous fairytale deserves a further life.

You can check out my video review of The Light Princess in Concert below:

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