The noxious combination of vanity and malfeasance results in near-disaster for the fantasy kingdom in Hans Christian Andersen’s classic fable, “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” rendered a delightfully entertaining production by the Creative Cauldron team of directors and musical innovators, now being performed through April 9 by the Learning Theater of the Cauldron at its Art Space location at 410 S. Maple St.
Colorful fabrics, in particular, the work of costume designer Margie Jervis, add to the delight of this production, reflective of Venice in the Italian Renaissance, the trading center that brought fine silk and other fabrics from the Far East. It invokes an era described by Cauldron Producing Director Laura Connors Hull when Venetians kept records of “fancy clothes being rented out and people falling into debt just to show how much position and wealth they had, the pitfalls of vanity.”
The young emperor finds himself under the influence of unscrupulous advisers who are in it for their own selfish gains. Himself spellbound by a fixation on fashion, he is unaware of their machinations, and falls sway to a hoax they’d been faked into, where he’s led to believe that he’s dressed in the fanciest outfit of all – except for one thing, he’s got nothing on! His advisers are afraid to admit to this obvious fact, having been led to believe that if they couldn’t see the clothes they were unworthy.
The only ones not fooled by the hoax are the commoners who break out in derisive laughter when they see the emperor strutting his stuff in his birthday suit, a.k.a. boxer briefs.
Three experienced adult actors hold the large cast of young ones together. Judy Butler, E. Augustus Knapp and Jim Lynch have all done work in numerous Cauldron productions, always to the delight of audiences.
For the young cast, who’ve been rehearsing this show for three months, the emperor is played by Gabriella Simmons-Robles, the mayor by Morgan Beltson, the tricky tailors by Libby Brooke and Nora Hill, with other roles going to Emily Martin, Florence Prole, Aspen Prole, Owen Thiebert, Tiberius Schmittel, Miri Brooke, Gus Knapp, Fiona Scheer, Alessandra Simmons-Robles, Anna Goildenbberg, Ben Graham, Theo Prole, Kayla Martin and Sophie Schmittel.
The music, including sparkling original songs, comes from the Cauldron’s masterful team of Matt Conner and Stephen Gregory Smith. Other key roles are held by directors Denise Perrino, Ellen Selby, lighting designer Jared Jacknow and stage manager Dwight Townsend-Gray, as well as Chris Riherd and Marshal Kessler.
The play, Connors Hull writes in her program notes, “offers us a timely discussion about the qualities needed in a good leader.” Timely? Whatever could she be talking about?