Playwright: David Bareford after Edith Nesbit; Score: Mikhail Fiksel,Kyle Hamman and Alex Balestrieri . At: Lifeline Theatre, 6912 N. Glenwood. Phone: 773-761-4477; $12. Runs through: Feb. 21
There's no disputing the important messages at the heart of The Last of the Dragons. In just one hour, Lifeline Theatre packs quite a bunch into this world-premiere children's musical based upon Edith Nesbit's book.
The Last of the Dragon uses a fairy-tale format to celebrate unconventional characters breaking from traditions kept in place for tradition's sake. Yet I wish the musical's many authors ( David Bareford on the script; Mikhail Fiksel, Kyle Hamman and Alex Balestrieri all contributing to the five pop-song score ) could have pushed things further.
Instead of being fascinated by frilly dresses and pining for princes, the Princess Andromeda of Astoria ( who prefers being called Andy ) is quite the spunky swordfighter. Princess Andy ( an endearing, if not always powerfully singing Anne Sears ) is dreading her kingdom's forthcoming wedding ritual, where she gets tied to a rock outside the last living dragon's cave to await a prince to rescue her. Andy asks her king father ( Mike Ooi ) why she has to marry, and why can't she fight the dragon herself.
Thanks to a deliberate message mix-up courtesy of the odd parrot-human D'Artagnan ( a resourceful David Fink ) , Princess Andy's intended turns out to be Prince Stanley of Tuscany ( a solid Scott Allen Luke ) , a bookish and shy guy who would rather be reading and inventing contraptions rather than saving princesses. At his queen mother's urging ( a very amusing Mallory Nees ) , Prince Stanley goes through with pretending to be a butch dragon fighter.
Since this is a fairy tale, everything ends happily for everyone, including the big gray dragon ( cleverly created by puppet designer Joanna Iwanika and voiced by Fink ) . Director Dorothy Milne and set designer Ian Zywica do a good job with the limited stage space afforded them ( played over Lifeline's upcoming Mrs. Caliban ) .
But in terms of the writing, the musical's authors could have made Prince Stanley even more unconventional as a lover of music, poetry and dance ( and if he had used those interests to charm the dragoneven better ) . As he is now, Prince Stanley doesn't challenge as many stereotypical male norms as the tomboy Princess Andy.
And though the show is a fantasy, the musical's authors jumble time periods together ( possibly to allow for the pop score ) , creating an armful of historical anachronisms. I'm sure a few parents may cringe at Astoria's kingdomwhich possesses a phonograph player, but has never heard of a car or a telescope ( both of which happen to be invented by Prince Stanley ) .
Lifeline's The Last of the Dragons is fun and its overall messages are important to hear. However, the show's nagging imperfections makes you wish more time was devoted to make it a better crafted one.