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Felicia Curry as Rapunzel, Gillian Shelly as the Witch, and Jonathan Atkinson as Prince Brian in the Imagination Stage production of Rapunzel. Photos by Scott Suchman. [SOURCE]

Full disclosure: as a kid, Rapunzel was always my least favorite of the Disney’fied stories. I never really understood why Rapunzel was such a push over and just didn’t crawl down the tower, even if her mom was a witch. And then, of course, the fact that her mom wasn’t really her mom but a child kidnapper is bound to unsettle any child. So I chalked it up as a creepy tale and moved on. Then I became a mother to two young girls and frankly, locking them up in a high tower often strikes me as an appealing idea. As does having magical witch powers. On Sunday, we attended Imagination Stage’s production of Rapunzel and heading into it, I already knew I’d like the witch, but I was ill-prepared for how much I would like all the characters and their modern twist on the Grimm fairytale.

Directed by Kathryn Chase Bryer and performed by just a cast of four extremely talented actors, Imagination Stage’s Rapunzel is a spring musical you don’t want to miss. It is billed as a “musical fairy tale about letting your hair down,” and what you could easily overlook is that the show is just as much about Rapunzel letting her hair down as it is about parents letting their kids find their own freedom. The story line skillfully ignores the Witch as a kidnapper and instead portrays her as a flawed human being; a mother who actually means well and wants what’s best for her daughter, just makes a few too many controlling mistakes along the way. [READ MORE]

‘Rapunzel’ at Imagination Stage by Julia L. Exline
As impressive as the grand set (or, dare-I-say, even more so), are the fanciful costumes by Frank Labovitz. Mixing vivid, extreme designs with pieces from simpler times, Labovitz manages to represent both modern and classical influences. The prince wears a gold, studded leather jacket that has an ultramodern, almost punky look to it, while Rapunzel’s traditional corset sits atop a mountain of ruffles that make up her vibrant skirt. Elaborate wigs are plentiful, from Rapunzel’s expected braid (which has bright flowers poking through it along every few inches) to a neon green hairdo for the witch that I can only describe as a birds nest (which is fitting, seeing how she wears a hat with crows perched upon it.)

Gillian Shelly is electric as the Witch, who cons Rapunzel (multiple Helen Hayes Award nominee Felicia Curry) out of her humble parent’s arms and raises her as her own in an isolated tower. While Rapunzel is for the most part a content, lively girl, she wishes to see the outside world, and argues with her mother, who refuses to let her explore life outside of the tower. Rapunzel catches the attention of a wandering Prince while she sings about being trapped in the tower. Prince Brian (a royally-good performance by Jonathan Atkinson) has woes of his own -overlooked by his family, he desperately wants to be a hero, and is thrilled to find his chance for a heroic feat in the shape of a maiden in distress. They become fast friends, and Prince Brian visits with Rapunzel while his attendant, Simon (a charming and funny Michael John Casey, who takes on multiple smaller roles as well) distracts the Witch. However, the enraged Witch finally discovers them, and banishes them into the woods, where they are sprung into a wild adventure, full of determination, lessons, and loyalty. A particularly nice scene shows the frightened couple trekking through a haunted forest, comforting each other with a song called, “Keep Going.” Together, they must find their ‘Happily Ever After.’ [READ MORE]
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