The Changeling

Book and Lyrics by Mark Loewenstern
Music and Lyrics by John Gregor
Directed by Carrie Libling
Vital Children's Theatre
432 W. 42nd St. (212/268-2040 or )
Equity showcase (closes Feb. 15)
Review by Dawn Zahra

Vital Children's Theatre's production of The Changeling, by Mark Loewenstern and John Gregor, was an enchanting journey into faerieland for both young and old alike. The story revolves around Alfred (Eve Reinhardt), an awkward elf-child and denizen of faerieland whom nobody likes. Chaos ensues when Queen Maeve (Breanna Pine) falls in love with John (Lori McNally), a precious Earthling "manchild." She substitutes the changeling Alfred for John in order to capture the boy and turn John into the Prince of the Faeries.

This fairytale is quite wonderful. Although it obviously draws inspiration from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, the story is unique and engaging. The plot turns out to be surprisingly unpredictable and profound in a way that is unusual for children's theatre. All of the characters are well-developed and yet simple enough for children to identify with and understand. While the dialog and lyrics do tend to the complex, children of all ages were held captivated throughout the entire production.

Composer Gregor does a terrific job with the music. Some of the melodies are quite haunting, and much of the underscoring and transitional phrases are quite beautiful. Although the current cast wasn't able to do the score complete justice, there were some really impressive performers -- notably Dianne DiPalma (Alice), whose voice was stunning, and Dante Russo (Brownie), whose energy and intensity onstage were a delight to watch. Likewise, Lori McNally (John) and Eve Reinhardt (Alfred) performed their roles with a presence and enthusiasm that gave exhuberant life to their characters.

The Changeling was beautifully and organically directed by Carrie Libling. She was truly able to bring out the best of her performers and create a flow of energy that was both very natural and fun. Choreographer Marco Jo Clate also did a lovely job. His dances kept the stage action free and lively. The designers also did a fabulous job. Costumes, set, and lights all combined to create an ethereal and magical world. Costumes sparkled and were full of wings, wispy veils, and glitter. The set was equally impressive, with tall trees, Dr. Seusslike flowers, and a splendid revolving house that the actors turned themselves.

All in all, The Changeling was a wonderful hour of theatre. Children and grown-ups were held entranced throughout the entire show and emerged from the theatre fresh and with a rejuvenated sense of spirit.

 Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 2
Acting: 2
Set: 2
Costumes: 2
Lighting/Sound: 2

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Copyright 2004 Dawn Zahra