'Plain Princess' to make world premiere

The Plain Princess debuts tonight, October 4.
(Source: Christine Denniston) Cast members of “The Plain Princess” pose for a photo. “The Plain Princess” will debut on Friday.

On Friday, Weber State University’s department of performing arts will premiere “The Plain Princess,” an original musical written and directed by faculty member Jim Christian in collaboration with Tom Edward Clark.

Christian said the concept for “The Plain Princess” can be traced back to his childhood. “’Plain Princess’ is a children’s story that was part of an anthology that I owned as a child,” he said. “The message has always resonated with me.”

Christian, who has written four previous stage productions, said that after completing his last musical, he introduced his friend Clark to “The Plain Princess.” 

“He had never heard of it, but fell in love with it, and we started working on it,” Christian said.

The musical follows a princess who has been given everything, but is still rather plain.

“It all begins on Esmeralda’s birthday, and the children from the other kingdoms had all come around to celebrate and the moment comes where she’s waiting to get her present from Prince Charles Michael, and he has disappeared,” Christian said. “When the prince is returned, the princess throws a royal fit and she has to be carried out like a baby. The king and queen realized they’ve got to do something.”

After trying everything they can, the king and queen send out a proclamation begging for help with the princess.

“After weeks, a widow shows up with five lovely daughters of her own and she says, ‘I will take your challenge, but the princess has to come live with me and my daughters for a period of nine months, and that’s the only way our magic works,’” Christian said. “The king and queen relent, and they send Esmeralda off, and while she’s gone she learns some wonderful life lessons that change her on the inside, and that’s what changes her on the outside. The big message of the story is that inner beauty changes the way that a person looks at the world, and therefore changes the way the world looks at that person.”

Lindsay Blackman, who plays Princess Esmeralda, said her favorite part of being in “The Plain Princess” is the transformation Esmeralda goes through.

“I know it’s terrible, but I like acting bossy,” she said. “It’s fun to be snotty, throwing fits and stuff. I really like making the change and start completely different than I end up. I think the journey is really fun. It’s good to play opposites and start out as a brat and end up all nice and princessy.”

Blackman also said “The Plain Princess” is a great family-friendly show, teaching that beauty is about what’s on the inside.

“It’s a super fun play. It has everything a good musical needs: great music, a great lesson, a good storyline. It’s a family-friendly musical. It’s geared towards kids, but I think adults will love it too because the little lessons are great reminders for everyone . . . It’s just a feel-good musical . . . If you’re having a bad day, just come and watch it, and it’s a good pick-me-up and you walk away just feeling so much better.”

Mandee Shaffer, the costume designer for “The Plain Princess,” said working on an entirely new production has given her many opportunities for growth as a designer.

“I did a lot of research of old fairytale books,” she said. “Since no one has ever done this musical before, I had the ability to not have any preconceived notions about what the costumes should look like.”

Shaffer said students should be interested in coming to see “The Plain Princess” because “it’s a world premiere. No one has ever seen this play, and you might never get a chance to see it again. It’s also a good show, it’s fun and short and it has a really sweet message . . . but most of all, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see this show.”

“The Plain Princess” will run Oct. 4-12. Tickets are available through the Val A. Browning Center box office and at www.weberstatetickets.com.