In signature fashion, Imagination Stage takes a classic story and infuses it with unexpected artistic genres. The result? A spectacular show. In the case of Rumpelstiltskin, lines that rhyme make up the dialogue, and a fiddler provides the musical score onstage throughout the entire show.
Staying mostly true to the Brothers Grimm ’s original plot, this production follows a poor miller’s daughter to the king’s palace where she is ordered to spin straw into gold. A short man with a wacky cackle agrees to complete the task in exchange for, first, her necklace, then, her ring, and finally, the promise of her firstborn child.
She agrees, marries the king, has a baby and is faced with giving her daughter to the little guy. He agrees to give her the chance to keep her baby by guessing his name. She outwits him by learning the name (Rumpelstiltskin, of course) from her friend who helped raise her (named Mess) and is able to keep the baby.
While there are fairies (called fair folk) in the play, the overall look of the set and costumes is in warm golden, green, and brown tones, more reminiscent of Robin Hood than purple-pink daintiness. The all-adult cast of six is often all onstage at once, so there’s lots of action. Some of the actors play more than one role, which I found confusing at times (for instance, the actress playing the king’s mom is onstage in one scene and then reappears right away playing Mess).
While the performers don’t truly sing any musical numbers, a few times their rhythmic chanting is almost sing-songy. The amazing fiddle playing goes well with the storyline, adding drama during dark moments and whimsy during lighter times.
Unlike in some of Imagination Stage’s other shows, there’s no audience interaction in Rumpelstiltskin. The actors don’t venture into the aisles or solicit comments/movements from theatergoers. The play is recommended for ages 5 and up, and that feels right. I brought my 4-and-a-half-year-old and 8-year-old boys, and while my younger son did okay overall, his fidgeting kicked in after intermission. He didn’t get scared at any points, though some kids might find fright in Rumpelstiltskin’s wicked laugh, his demise down a hole in the stage, and the idea of baby stealing. The scariness of the Brothers Grimm tale is offset by funny moments, including the “eew” faces made when tasting the miller’s daughter’s cake and the antics of the fair folk (who are invisible to the play’s non-fairy characters).
I’m not a fan of forced rhymes for the sake of rhyming, but the poetic dialogue in this production works without being grating. And the fiddler, who plays one of the fair folk, moves about onstage without being distracting or seeming out of place. Older children will take away lessons on love, greed, power, and more from seeing this inventive take on Rumpelstiltskin.
- Rumpelstiltskin runs through March 16, 2014. A limited number of $10 tickets are available for each performance by calling the box office; these tickets go on sale for the following week’s performances on Monday mornings at 10AM.
- The 364-seat Lerner Family Theatre feels large enough to give the feeling of being in a grand, professional space, yet intimate enough that each seat provides a good view of the stage.
- The cafe that was previously inside Imagination Stage has been converted into vending machines. On weekends, there is also a person selling snacks from a cart at intermission. Many restaurants surround the theater in the Woodmont Triangle area, including Hard Times Cafe and PizzaPass. And outside food can be eaten at tables near the vending machines in Imagination Stage’s lobby area.
- Booster seats are available when you enter the theater for littles. A soundproof room is located within the theater for fussy or disruptive theatergoers.
- Photo one: The Fair Folk reenact the childhood story of the Miller’s Daughter. L to R: King (Jason Glass), Fiddler (Anthony Hyatt), Mess (Kathryn Kelley), and the Miller’s Daughter (Katherine Turner) in Rumpelstiltskin at Imagination Stage.
- Photo two: Rumpelstiltskin (Matthew Pauli) cheers with joy when he makes a deal that can’t be denied in Rumpelstiltskin at Imagination Stage.
- Photos by Margo Schulman.