The Enchanted Pig
This enthralling show at the New Victory smartly blends opera and musical theater.
The show, by Jonathan Dove and Alasdair Middleton, has a playful, cheeky beginning that lures the audience in to what will eventually become a story of romantic heroism. Three princesses get the key to a forbidden room in their father's castle. There, they find the Book of Fate, which decrees the oldest daughter will marry the Prince of the West; the middle daughter will marry the Prince of the East; and the Youngest Daughter will marry a Pig (amusingly stated as "From the North").
When the horrific Pig/Man (Simon Wilding) arrives to demand his wife, the light tone of the musical takes a sharp right turn into the viscerally dark. The youngest princess leaves with the Pig, crying all the way. At night, the Pig turns into a handsome prince, who explains he's under a witch's curse, and if she is just patient and trusting, her love can save him. Except she isn't patient and trusting; she wants what she wants and she wants it now. When her attempt at immediately overturning the curse on her husband backfires, she learns that the only way she can win him back is to travel to the ends of the earth and wear out three pairs of iron shoes before she will ever see him again.
By now, she is so much in love with her Pig that she will, in fact, wear out three pairs of iron shoes, travel to the source of the North Wind, as well as the Moon and the Sun (all represented in human form by members of the company). And finally, she will have to win away her spouse from an evil witch who intends to marry the handsome prince off to her extraordinarily spoiled daughter.
Even when the story is serious, the pace set by director John Fulljames is fast, and there is just enough throwaway humor to keep an undertone of playfulness in the midst of all this drama. Driving the story, in addition to the plot, is a beautiful score that leaps to operatic heights and glides through music hall comedy and character songs with equal ease. Adding to the fantastical quality of the piece is a set that looks a bit like a giant toy and costumes that have a cartoon-like appeal. (Both are created by the imaginative Dick Bird, and are extremely well lit by Bruno Poet.)
The show's cast is well up to the demands of the show, including Karina Lucas, who gave an innocently intense performance as the young princess, and Kate Nelson, who gives a star-making performance as the oldest princess.