24 June 2011


Faerie Tale Theatre Production Smackdown, Round 3B
(Revisit Round 1, Round 2 and Round 3A)

It's finally here!!! Can you believe it??? (I know I still can't . . .)

This week, two "Prince and Princess" faerie tales get to face off. Writing this post was an interesting experience for me, because I hadn't realised before I began how thematically related these two stories actually are. Another case of learning as I go and finally being ready to host a smackdown only when the smackdown is actually over. =P (But you like learning with me, right?)

At the end of this post, you'll get another chance to influence the outcome of this bracket when the winner faces off against one of our wild cards. Remember that casting a vote for a Faerie Tale Theatre Production gets you one extra entry in the June Giveaway.

Round 3B
The Faerie Four

The Princess and the Pea . . .

Sometimes the most absurd faerie tale scenarios are also the most realistic. Anyone who has ever weighed a potential mate in the balance knows exactly what his proverbial pea under twenty mattresses and twenty quilts is. We may stack up our "non-negotiables" out of a prudent sense of self-preservation, but these are no buffer against that tiny grain--or as it were, legume--of truth that tells us we've found the right partner for a lifetime.

This production's slightly stuffy prince has his heart stolen from right under his nose by the most unconventional princess he has ever met. Then again, given the more "conventional" prospects his mother screens for him--including a Princess Bovine from the kingdom Agricola--his lady love is downright normal!

Casting Liza Minnelli as the lead was genius. As the only daughter of Hollywood royalty Vicente Minnelli and Judy Garland, she was born a princess. As a true star in her own right--the sort of supernova who could entertain on the big screen, the small screen and the stage--her uniqueness was also something beyond her parents and completely her own. As the prince, Tom Conti is very charming (LOL--but yes, really!), although I don't know if there was anything similarly meta about the decision to cast him. His is also the only character who actually grows: the first real improvement over the source story.

Remember that we know nothing about the original prince, not even what he thinks of the unusual princess. Here, he starts out as spoiled, unwelcoming and bored . . . then becomes kind, charming and animated--all thanks to a princess he almost threw back out into the rain that first night. Sometime during the transformation, the princess jokes that she is pretty near perfect (which she arguably is), but it's really the flawed prince who carries this story. And the sweet twist at the end, in which he has to pass another kind of test, is very romantic.

. . . Sleeping Beauty

There aren't many ways to twist this faerie tale about a princess who is cursed to sleep for a hundred years and the prince whose kiss is to awaken her--especially when Tchaikovsky all but owns the Good vs. Evil angle and nobody tops Disney when it comes to balancing evil villains and plucky sidekicks. Just for trying, this Faerie Tale Theatre production should get an A for Effort.

The script does have potential, piercing the medieval folk imagery of the sleeping princess and long-awaited prince, to reveal our modern myth of finding "The One". So what better back story for the princess than one in which she despairs of finding a suitor she can love? And doesn't it double the fun to have the prince dealing with the same problem, unable to find a princess who is able to win his heart? It's only appropriate in a production that's all about doubling up . . .

Bernadette Peters and Christopher Reeve play not just our leads, but also the more ridiculous prospects they meet before each other. It's a cute device imported straight from the theatre--and it had such potential for underlining the funny fact that what annoys us most about a person can suddenly, after we fall in love, become the most endearing thing about him. (You might already be familiar with the flip side: that what we find most charming at the beginning of a relationship can become the most aggravating at a more serious stage.) Not that this production goes there: the cute device remains a cute device.

This Sleeping Beauty is best known for its Russian setting, elaborate costumes, and an evil fairy that scared the heck out of those who watched this as children. There are nods to both Tchaikovsky and Disney--both deliberate (Listen to the score!) and inevitable (Watch the face-off between the prince and the evil fairy!). Again, an A for Effort . . . but maybe a B- for Execution.

* * * * *

The Princess and the Pea vs. Sleeping Beauty

Winner: The Princess and the Pea--because its love story looks twice as good on the screen as it must have looked in the script, rather than vice-versa.

* * *

And now, what you've been patiently awaiting for weeks: your own chance to vote!

Despite being outnumbered two to one by Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs last month, Goldilocks and the Three Bears still emerged the winner of that mini face-off. And now it gets to do battle with today's victor . . .

As you so kindly did in Round 3A, I hope you will watch a bit of each production before casting your vote. No matter how well you know the original faerie tales and how faithful to them Faerie Tale Theatre manages to be, there will always be something about this sort of adaptation that is a total gamechanger.

The above links lead to the first parts of the YouTube uploads. Happy viewing--and happy voting! =D

Image Sources: a) The Princess and the Pea DVD, b) Sleeping Beauty DVD, c) Goldilocks and the Three Bears DVD


Sullivan McPig said...

I'll have to go for John Lithgow, so Goldilocks it is!

Salome Ellen said...

The Princess and the Pea by a hair (or is that a string from a peapod?....)

Anyway, this confirms that I have a lot of catch-up watching to do.

Syrin said...

After watching the first clips of both, The Princess and the Pea is the one leaving me want to watch more. It gets my vote!

Risa said...

My network's slow so it took me a while to watch the first parts of the two contending tales. If I'm going by first impressions I guess it would be Goldilocks!

Enbrethiliel said...


Oh, my! A tie!

Thanks, Sully, Ellen, Syrin and Risa--especially those who took more than the usual trouble. =)

antiaphrodite said...

Pea for me!!

mrsdarwin said...

I'm blatantly disregarding the request to view first and casting my vote for Princess and the Pea based solely on Enbrethiliel's review. Can you believe I've never seen Liza Minelli in anything, ever?

Enbrethiliel said...


Antiaphrodite -- Will do for you! ;-)

Mrs. Darwin -- That's a legitimate reason, too! LOL!

And you've never seen Liza in anything? There go your Theatre Geek credentials!

antiaphrodite said...

Waaaaah! X-D

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

I vote for The Princess and the Pea. That remains one of my absolute favorites from when I was a kid. Liza is so funny in that role.

Enbrethiliel said...


Thanks, Melissa!

antiaphrodite said...

I do wish the whole thing wasn't so obviously farcical, but it's a fun episode :-)

Enbrethiliel said...


That's a good point. I also wish the rival princesses had had a bit more depth to them. In an ideal world (How often do I say that???), we'd see them taking their supposedly ideal normal-ness to such extremes that they end up looking weird, while the totally unconventional Princess Alecia is shown to be "just right," after all!

(Anyone note the point of similarity to Goldilocks and the Three Bears in that last paragraph?)

Enbrethiliel said...


Voting in this round of the smackdown is now closed.