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Critics divided over The Light Princess

The long-awaited musical from Tori Amos The Light Princess opened at the National Theatre last night (9 October 2013). Starring Rosalie Craig, it runs until 9 January 2014

By • London
Rosalie Craig
Rosalie Craig
Brinkhoff/Moegenburg

Michael Coveney
WhatsOnStage
★★★★

The Light Princess is a delightful and unusual surprise at the National Theatre, a grown-up musical pantomime… Rosalie Craig – giving one of the most extraordinary, vocally resourceful and physically triumphant performances I have ever seen in musical theatre… Marianne Elliott's production… is full of such fluid, inventive physicality, mixing it with cartoon comic strip, puppetry and projections… Narrative clarity is not the show's strongest suit, a lot of the courtly huff and puff going for nought… but you soon learn to submit to the slow-motion antics of the excellent ensemble… Apart from the technical virtuosity in Craig's singing, there's a remarkable bolted-together double number for Clive RoweAmy Booth-Steel is an eye-catching Dandini figure and Laura Pitt-Pulford equally watchable as her more sinister opposite number on the prince's side…

Lyn Gardner
Guardian
★★

…For all the invention and visual swagger of Marianne Elliott's staging, and a gorgeous central performance from Rosalie Craig… this almost entirely sung-through show lacks a genuine fairy tale sense of wonder or real emotional punch…. the narrative is over-crowded… some scenes… go on for slightly longer than forever, and while Amos' score is sometimes lush, for much of the time it is also unexpectedly bland. There is an awful lot of not very distinctive warbling… There are compensations. Playing the misguided father who fails to give his daughter the healing love she needs, Clive Rowe is, as ever, good value. Matthew Robbins' black and white animations are fun. But the show lacks the dark heart and wonder of Kneehigh's fairy tales, and a sense that we can see our own world reflected back in the fantastical world on stage.

Charles Spencer
Daily Telegraph
★★★

…despite all these talents, the show left me cold… The songs… feature a lot of wailing vocals and only very occasionally run to a decent tune or a witty lyric… I can't say that any of the numbers lodged in my memory on first hearing… There are some fine aerial sequences… There are also some notably dark moments, especially when grotesque suitors cruelly seek to cure the princess's weightlessness. Rosalie Craig, who resembles the young Tori Amos, proves a beguiling princess and manages to sing superbly even when being manhandled. Nick Hendrix is a touch bland as her handsome lover but Clive Rowe makes the most of a big operatic number of guilt and grief as her father. But this show about a floating princess feels ponderous rather than as light as air and never quite achieves dramatic lift-off.

Henry Hitchings
Evening Standard
★★★★

Tori Amos's first musical, six years in the making, has been worth the wait… though much of the music is delicate and sensuous, there are bursts of thrilling exuberance… Rosalie Craig is stunningly good as Althea… Steven Hoggett's choreography is a crucial part of Marianne Elliott's richly imagined production… Nick Hendrix doesn't make a strong initial impression in the role, but in the second half he becomes more compelling and romance blooms. Clive Rowe as Althea's father has one knockout aria, and Amy Booth-Steel brings just the right note of fierceness to her faithful friend Piper. The design by Rae Smith is gorgeous… That's not to say The Light Princess is perfect. The early passages of exposition feel overstuffed, and there are preachy moments. But its problems can be remedied, and the best of it is beautiful.

Simon Edge
Daily Express
★★★★★

…they were clearly making sure they got this ambitious, dauntingly demanding production just right… this eco fairy-tale with a feminist slant is an old-fashioned feast for the eyes… What makes it so visually original is that Althea, in a staggeringly good performance by Rosalie Craig, floats above the stage for a good three-quarters of the show… she is well supported by an unfeasibly chiselled Nick Hendrix as her prince, the ever throaty Clive Rowe as her chauvinist father and Amy Booth-Steel as her loyal and only friend. I didn't come away humming anything but the score is by turns stirring and sweet, with lyrics that are just cheeky enough to remind us this is a modern take on a 19th century tale.

Quentin Letts
Daily Mail

…Not since the dying days of British Leyland and its Austin marque has the word ‘Princess' been applied to quite such a ropey vehicle… The notable technical achievement of this show is the way Rosalie Craig, who gallantly plays Althea, is kept aloft by muscle men and wires… Cue lots of singing without one memorable tune… Director Marianne Elliott has certainly come up with a fairybook staging. A small fortune has been thrown at the sets and Ruritanian costumes. Rather less may have been spent on singing lessons for Clive Rowe… This one just feels silly, more fey than fable, the characters a weird mix of knowing irony and shallow childishness. The music is sub-Lloyd Webber…

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