Posted on: Friday, October 24, 2003

This one will be a hit among kids

By Joe Rozmiarek
Advertiser Drama Critic

 •  'The Paper Bag Princess'

Kennedy Theatre, University of Hawai'i-Manoa

Public performances 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday

$12 general, $10 seniors, military and UH faculty; $7 Non-UH-Manoa students and children, $3 UH-Manoa students with photo ID



Have you ever been stalked by a mud puddle? Played tag with the wind? Dueled with a draggin' dragon?

You can have that vicarious fun when you see "The Paper Bag Princess" this weekend at the University of Hawai'i.

The annual UH children's show gives the student cast an opportunity to stretch their acting styles, technicians a chance to flex their creativity on the huge Kennedy Theatre main stage, and director Tamara Hunt to wrap it all up into something simple, gaudy and delightful.

The production is a collection of seven stories by Robert Munsch, adapted for the stage by Irene Watts under a single collective title. This results in seven stops and starts to disrupt the continuity, but the benefit that nothing lasts too long and something new starts every few minutes.

The size and colors of the set make the biggest impression.

Scenic designer Daniel Gelbmann uses the full breadth and depth of the playing area, but in fine theatrical style does not reveal it all at once. Side panels open up like book pages with doors that characters can step through to enter a newly revealed space. There are cutouts popping open for rolling props and huge curtains rising over new vistas of space.

It's all done in bright, playful colors and shapes and with plenty of whimsy. Where else could you find watermelons and bananas growing on the same fruit tree?

The stories are similarly simple and bold, and are aimed primarily at younger children. Much of the fun comes from being a part of a large crowd that enthusiastically responds by roaring warnings at the villain mud puddle.

The "Mud Puddle" segment occurs well into the show, and is easily its high point. Kevin Pacheco Jr. gets the fun of playing the title role. Dressed like a chocolate-milk amoeba with dripping fringes and goggles, he stalks the unwary Julie Ann (Claudia Elmore) every time she goes out to play.

Julie Ann comes back filthy, and each time a patient Mother (Kim Berstler) scrubs her clean in the bathtub. Julie Ann finally triumphs by driving her nemesis away with bars of soap.

The kids love this piece, at times so much that they drown out narrator Hank West. But don't ask them to be quiet: Their reaction is the best part.

A large puppet and flags populate "Millicent and the Wind," and a nontraditional fairy tale is the basis for "The Paper Bag Princess." Stephan-ie Kong plays the assertive title character, who wears a paper bag because a marauding dragon (Hank West) has burned her clothes and stolen her Prince (Neil Waite).

The Dragon is not too bright, so the Princess exhausts him with repeated dares to circle the world in ten seconds. When he's finally collapsed, she frees the Prince — only to decide he's not worth the trouble and has been a "bum Prince" all along.

"The Paper Bag Princess" offers plenty of fun and should be a big hit with youngsters.

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