This musical version of the beloved novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett was developed as Theater as Digital Activity, with input from Children around the world.
A Little Princess is the story of Sara Crewe, a young girl whose father dies while she is at a London boarding school, leaving her an orphan. Unable to pay her tuition and with nowhere to go, Sara is made to work as a servant at the school where she was once a privileged student. She becomes great friends with another servant girl and uses her imagination to transform her dreary attic room into a magical place. Sara and her friend Becky rescue a pet monkey, which they later learn belongs to a mysterious new neighbor. Little do they know, the mysterious neighbor is the business partner of Sara’s deceased father and he is searching for Sara. Throughout her hardships, she remains positive and generous, a true princess.
A Little Princess was performed in May 2002 at Children’s Musical Theater San Jose. A short suite of songs was recorded in August 2003.
This synopsis lists all the songs in the show. Those that were recorded as part of the suite have links to the page with the music and lyrics.
Bombay, India, 1882. SARA is pouring tea for an assortment of dolls and a pet monkey. Her father, CAPTAIN CREWE, is a British army officer. He is interrupted by another officer; the men confer and several Indian servants whisk away the tea party and bring on traveling cases. We learn that Sara is being Banished.
CAPTAIN CREWE and SARA arrive in London at Miss Minchin’s Select Seminary for Young Ladies. SARA is dressed in an expensive coat, with matching hat and muff. She expresses reservations, then steeles herself and marches in. While waiting to meet MISS MINCHIN, SARA and CAPTAIN CREWE observe the rather severe sitting room and with its Medals and Ribbons Galore.
As their meeting finishes, CAPTAIN CREWE instructs MISS MINCHIN that Sara should have whatever she desires; “she never wants for anything it isn’t safe to give her. They head up to Sara’s room, with Sara’s maid MARIETTE and servants carrying trunks and parcels. Some students spy on the procession. Once there, MISS AMELIA and MARIETTE bustle about unpacking SARA’s things, shaking out her lovely dresses and frilly petticoats as they take them from the trunks as SARA and CAPTAIN CREWE say good-bye (Committed to My Heart).
They kiss farewell. After he goes, SARA receives a large box with a beautiful new doll, who comes to life when SARA isn’t in the room.
The next morning, while waiting for class to begin, other girls in the school start gossiping about The New Girl.
At the height of the merriment, we hear an angry scream and MISS MINCHIN returns, marching over to SARA and yanking the LAST DOLL away. She states that Captain Crewe died a pauper in South Africa, leaving SARA on her hands along with unpaid bills for the party and gifts. Just short of turning SARA out onto the street, MISS MINCHIN declares that SARA will become a servant at the school. SARA stands solemnly as her fancy dress is taken off and replaced by a servant’s plain frock, reassuring herself that Heaven Isn’t Far Away while, all around her, the stage is stripped bare.
Some days later, out on the street, a LARGE FAMILY is caroling outside the home of CARRISFORD. RAM DASS has wheeled CARRISFORD, bundled in his wheelchair, onto the porch. CARRISFORD gives each of the children a very generous 6 pence, saying that it will make him feel better knowing that he made some children smile this holiday season. “I only wish we could have found Crewe’s daughter by Christmas The adults discuss the lengths to which CARRISFORD has gone looking for SARA: the many cities, schools, and dead ends. He further laments that CAPTAIN CREWE died thinking CARRISFORD had ruined him. Meanwhile, one of the children gives SARA his 6 pence—she resists and eventually accepts his charity. The children comment that despite SARA’s appearance, she didn’t behave like a beggar. They leave curious about The Little Girl Who’s Not a Beggar.
SARA returns to the attic, tired and hungry from a long day of errands. She finds ERMENGARDE waiting in her nightdress, who’s been crying because SARA isn’t her friend anymore. SARA explains they’ll always be friends, but that SARA has to act differently around MISS MINCHIN and the other girls. Happy now, hey’re joined by BECKY, and embark on a wonderful game of pretend and storytelling that unfortunately wakes the rest of the school. LAVINIA and JESSIE tattle to MISS MINCHIN and the adults lament What Will the Neighbors Think?
SARA, again on errands, passes MR. CARRISFORD and RAMM DASS. When asked about his friend, RAMM DASS says she is hungry and cold and lonely in her attic, “treated like a pariah by all members of the household, especially the headmistress. They come up with a plan to replace her thin blankets with fleecy ones, leave food in her attic, and do it all while she’s sleeping.
SARA returns to her room exhausted and falls into a deep sleep. RAMM DASS creeps through the window, and EMILY, the doll, awakes. STORY CHARACTERS (RAJAH, ANGELS, PRINCESS BY THE SEA, MER-PRINCE, MERMAIDS) emerge, and while RAMM DASS sings Jadoo, they transform SARA’s room. SARA awakes, thinking she’s still dreaming, then calls BECKY who is equally stunned by the transformation. MISS MINCHIN throws open the door, and upon seeing the room, assumes it’s all been stolen. She declares that SARA will leave the house in disgrace the next morning, after returning the pillows and blankets to MR. CARRISFORD, the next-door neighbor.
The next morning, RAMM DASS opens the door to find SARA, with the monkey and her belongings in two parcels on the doorstep. CARRISFORD wants to meet SARA, and starts asking her questions. They gasp when she says her dead father was Captain Ralph Crewe. They explain that CARRISFORD was her father’s friend, and that he didn’t really loose all the money. “He only thought he had lost it, and because he loved your father so, he was out of his mind, for a time, with grief. He ran into the jungle and almost died of brain fever.
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