“The Little Prince is a spectacular immersive experience you’ll never forget,” touts the description on the show’s website. Great marketing, but only mildly true. The new Broadway treatment is neither spectacular nor immersive, but you won’t forget feeling that your time and money could have been better spent. And oh, what a chunk of time it is! Sure. The running time is approximately two hours, but they feel more like two weeks.
The globally beloved novella by World War II aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry has been translated into over 300 languages. For this version, it’s obvious that none of them are clarity or cohesion. The philosophical tale of a fallen aviator (Aurélien Bednarek) lost in the dessert is meant as an allegory on adult life. After the aviator meets the Little Prince (Lionel Zalachas), he is introduced to several personalities on several planets, all of whom have lost their childlike innocence. Children hold the key to life. Adults have grown and are now focused on the wrong things.
Librettist and co-director Chris Mouron serves as the story’s narrator, but between the book and low production values, the show never gets off the ground, nor gives one a clear understanding of the plot. Certainly this cast is chockablock with gifted, agile performers. Yet the sequences are too drawn out and visually dull. Etienne Beaussar’s video projections are the primary focus. Had this opened in the MTV era, they would be cutting edge. Instead, they are a combination of amateur Salvador Dali and Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” video. Given that there is no other set, it leaves us wanting more. There is also no live orchestra. And yes, this is a Broadway production. Terry Truck’s score is perfectly fine, but without real musicians, we feel mightily cheated.
The creative team wants to promote this as a Cirque du Soleil-like event, but it simply feels and looks much cheaper. Although not family friendly, adult audiences would be wiser to hop the train to Bushwick, Brooklyn for Company XIV, a group that continues to stimulate and titillate audiences with each new original production. Even better, they are charging a fraction of the ticket cost than this commercial mess.
Ultimately, Saint-Exupéry was right about children having more wisdom than adults. During intermission in the men’s room, a little boy pleaded with his father, “Daddy, I want to go home!” “But there is a second part,” the father replied. “Don’t make me go back in there!”, the boy urged. Had I not been reviewing; I’d have joined the kid and dashed to the exit.
The Little Prince is now playing at the Broadway Theatre (1681 Broadway at 53rd Street). For tickets and information, click here