Theater at Monmouth: “Tales From The Blue Fairy Book” (REVIEW)
After last year’s debut assignment reviewing performances at Theater at Monmouth (TAM), I was quite excited to take the task up again for New Maine Times. It was nice to be able to meet the extended family of young local actress Isabella Coulombe, performing for the first time with TAM, chat with Dawn McAndrews (who adapted the play from Andrew Lang’s 1889 “The Blue Fairy Book”) and “Welcome Home!” long-time TAM actors and favorite honorary Monmouth natives Bill Van Horn, Mark Cartier and Janis Stevens.
The play, TAM’s 45th season opener and this year’s Family Show production, opens with a bored young girl named Violet (Coulombe) in her grandmother’s attic on a rainy and stormy day, trying desperately to get some sort of cellphone signal- certainly a frustration many in Maine can relate to! Her grandmother (Wendy Way) finds her there and the two discuss Violet’s “antsiness” wanting to find something to do. So Grandmother digs out from a stack of dusty books one that she tells the girl “was one of your father’s favorites, when he was a boy”. The two sit together and Grandmother starts to read the first tale to Violet, “East of the Sun and West of the Moon”, as the characters from the book appear and act out the tales as narrated.
As the grandmother reads more stories,“The Bronze Ring” and “The White Cat”, Violet finds herself getting more and more drawn into the wonderfully fanciful stories- she loses her skepticism and her boredom fades quickly as she is drawn into the imaginative worlds within the book, discovering despite herself the same simple love of the adventures within the volume that her grandmother and father shared years before.
The play ends as Violet decides to read a story to her grandmother, “The Stars in the Sky” and in the narration, becomes the girl within the story who immerses herself within a magical brook and the light of twinkling stars reflecting upon the grass, trying to reach up and to be within the very stars in the sky. As she asks, “What is a dream, without a challenge?”, she “climbs stairs without steps” and finds herself surrounded with the joy and bliss of the stars.
A lovely, fanciful play- well acted and a true pleasure.
Cast (in order of appearance):
Violet: Isabella Coulombe
Grandmother: Wendy Way
White Bear/ Horse 2/ West Wind/ Prince: Ardarius Blakely
Father/ Horse 3/ South Wind/ Old Servant: Michael Dix Thomas
Daughter: Anna Doyle
Old Woman/ North Wind: Wendy Way
Horse 1/ East Wind/ Long-Nose Troll: Graham Emmons
Wise Woman/ Rag Woman: Wendy Way
King/ Sultan: Graham Emmons
Prime Minister/ Minister’s Son: Ardarius Blakely
Gardener/ Gardener’s Son: Michael Dix Thomas
Princess/ Herald: Anna Doyle
Queen: Wendy Way
Oldest Princess: Ardarius Blakely
Middle Princess: Michael Dix Thomas
Youngest Princess: Graham Emmons
White Cat/ Prince: Anna Doyle
Fairy Queen: Anna Doyle
Young Girl: Isabella Coulombe
Mill Pond/ Big Fish: Michael Dix Thomas
Babbling Brook/ Dappled Horse: Ardarius Blakely
Fairy Man: Graham Emmons
Adapted by Dawn McAndrew
Directed by Luke Bartholomew
Set Designer: Tricia A. Hobbs
Costume Designer: Stephanie Peters
Lighting Designer: Jim Alexander
Sound Designer: Rew Tippin
Stage Manager: Katie Moshier