Posted on 31 May 2011 by Hannah PetrakMarcus is only 14 years old and he just became the new emperor, even though he hasn’t finished reading “How to Become an Emperor” yet. He has no idea how to run a country, or even make people believe he can. Sounds like a problem only magical garments can take care of.
A musical version of “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” as part of the Theatre for Young Audiences series at South Coast Repertory, has everything to keep the children staring wide-eyed at the stage. The costumes alone were like their own exciting tales: over-the-top wigs, splayed coattails, and doorframe-wide hoop skirts; and of course, one delicate hanger holding the magical, invisible clothing to make Emperor Marcus, played by Alex Miller, a winning success.
The crowd favorite was Chad Borden as the Swindler. His flexible high-kicks and expressive face, wooed Marcus into a perfect swindle meal for a con artist like him. And 6-year-old Quinn, my date for the afternoon, poked me to whisper, “He’s funny,” the highest of accolades from this young lady.
A moon or two ago when I was Quinn’s age, I saw this play, at the Laguna Beach Playhouse, if my memory serves. Sans music, I believe. It only makes sense to add more whims to an already fantastical play. However most of this version’s music, by the Tony Award-winning duo Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, was pretty unmemorable. Each song seemed to copycat the one before. There was one salient number, though, that the crowd loved, repeating the lines about oatmeal and emus to one another: “Only a Guy Like You.”
The rest of the cast was just as delightful. Diana Burbano and Todd Neilsen as Deena and William were a perfect blundering support for poor Marcus; and Arno the scrub boy, played by Jeffrey Christopher Todd, helped make the forbidden relationship with the young emperor a charming necessity, and some my favorite scenes.
The actors normally come out in costume after the show to sign autographs and pose for pictures with the children, during which Emperor Marcus did cover himself after the famous entrance in which he wears his invisible clothes. “You don’t have a shirt on!” a particularly perceptive young voice called out during the climax. No. He did not have a shirt on. But that’s the only way some people learn it’s the not the clothes that make a man.