Tomorrow at the National Theater, a damaged aircraft will come crashing from above. The surviving French aviator will meet a young, otherworldly prince who lives on a house-sized planet called B612. The rest of the story is known and adored by the countless people who have read Le Petit Prince since it was first published in 1943.
After the smash hit musical Notre-Dame de Paris premiered in Paris in 1998, French composer Richard Cocciante turned to Antoine de Saint-Exupery's beloved fairytale to create another visually imaginative and musically captivating stage show with the help of a team that includes acclaimed stage designer Hans Schavernoch and costume designer Jean-Charles de Castelbajac.
While the lyrics are faithful to the original text in the novel, the elaborate production is furnished with kaleidoscopic effects that bring the imaginative cosmos of the novel into the real world. Over 300 stage mechanisms provide special effects to wow and dazzle non-stop. The phantasmagorical backdrops lead the audience through the floating planets inhabited by a motley crew of whimsical characters like the King, the Conceited Man and the Geographer.
The show sports a first-rate cast led by Laurent Ban, who plays the pilot-narrator and starred in the French-language productions of Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera and 18-year-old Manon Taris, who was selected to play the little prince for the Asian tour.
Le Petit Prince premiered at the Casino de Paris in 2002, but the production's enormous scale and technological sophistication delayed the advent of international tours. Five years after the show opened, it is now finally ready to leave France for its Asian tour, first in China's Shanghai Oriental Arts Center (上海東方藝術中心) then at the National Theater.
What: Le Petit Prince
Where: National Theater (國家戲劇院), 21-1 Zhongshan S Rd, Taipei (台北市中山南路21-1號)
When: Saturdays and Sundays at 2:30pm and 7:30pm; Wednesdays to Fridays at 7:30pm through August 25
Tickets: NT$1,000 to NT$6,000, available through NTCH ticket outlets or at
"The difficulty in staging the production abroad is to find a proper theater that is big enough and has adequate technological support … The efficiency of Taiwan's technicians has been just amazing. They don't need much explaining to get the job done and the quality of locally made props is also above par," said director Bruno Carlucci.
Compared to Notre-Dame de Paris, where each number can be enjoyed as an independent piece (part of the reason why more than one million copies of the album were sold even before the theatrical version reached the stage, according to Carlucci), Le Petit Prince presents a challenge musically, as each song is an integral part of a lyrical whole.
Carlucci suggests that there might be an Oriental aspect in this presentation, which underlines aspects of the original story.
"The Little Prince, in fact, contains quite a lot of Oriental nutrients and we try to introduce the philosophical concepts of the East to a Western audience right from the beginning of the creative process," Carlucci pointed out.
Musical kinship with the East has further prompted the team to select four local performers including Cloud Gate dancer Wu Pei-shan (吳佩珊) to play the role of a snake that bit the little prince in order to send him back to his home planet.
It is also a dream fulfilled on the director's part to work with Asian artists who can lend new dance vocabularies to the show.
"There is no fixed form for French musicals, which have been constantly been reinvented. I guess it's a distinctive feature of our musicals, that is, the desire to search for the original," Carlucci said.