Just Add SPARKLE!
- By gentleguide
- On Sun 23 Apr 2017
Over the last decade, young kids have discovered a new heroine. With over 70 books, and 30 million copies in print, this heroine has now made it to the stage, in the next musical opening this weekend at the Kate Goldman Children's Theatre at the Des Moines Playhouse. Ooo-la-la! Expect an amazing amount of color, flair, and panache (and other French words!) as you enter the world of Fancy Nancy! And never forget to SPARKLE!
Older audiences may not be all that familiar with Fancy Nancy, but I guarantee the name means quite a bit to the younger set. Author Jane O'Connor's first Fancy Nancy picture book adventure spent almost 2 years on the New York Times Bestseller List. The musical opening this weekend at the DM Playhouse brings the world of Fancy Nancy to the stage, embodied by Drake student Madelyn Ripperger.
Ripperger knows all about Fancy Nancy these days, but that wasn't always the case. "I was actually 10 when the books were first released and, being that I have younger brothers, Fancy Nancy wasn't really on my radar until my younger cousins were born," says Madelyn. "All three of the little girls in my family are in love with the books, so it has been fun to experience that with them as I've gone through this process. As soon as The Playhouse announced this show last season, I became very interested in the books and the character of Nancy. Our director (Brianne Mabel) has described her as a 'go-getter' and someone who 'makes things happen' so the character hits pretty close to home for me."
Just because she is familiar with Fancy Nancy now, doesn't mean her job is easy, by any means. "The biggest challenge in the show is keeping the six-year-old energy up for the entire production. Even though it's only an hour-long show there is a ton of action, and I'm only offstage for about a number and a half. Keeping the energy high and engaging is something I've been very diligent about."
"I also think it could be easy to make Nancy seem bossy, and that is reallly not what I see in the character. She is a passionate little teacher, and helping her friends become fancy is something she's very passionate about, so I've tried to bring that out more than any 'bossiness' that might be there."
"I see so much of myself as a child in Nancy, which has been one of the most fun parts of bringing her to life. I was definitely, and still am, a go-getter as a kid, and always the leader of whatever antics my friends got into. Nancy is very over-the-top, and as a performer that's a really fun thing to play with."
The sets and costumes for the shows at the Kate Goldman this season have been phenomenal, and it looks like the presentation for Fancy Nancy will be no exception. Much of the success of the books has been based upon the award-winning illustrations by Robin Preiss Glasser. Madelyn loves what the Playhouse has come up with in their creation of Nancy's world.
"The set is a pink and purple paradise! The paint in the theatre is all different shades of purple, and many of the set and costume pieces are pink and other bright, fun colors. The first day we came into the space and saw the paint was such a treat, that I think people will be really surprised and instantly happy when they walk in the door. As for the set itself, there is a big circle motif that has really set up the childlike element of it, and makes it really easy to play with all sides of the audience in the three-quarter thrust set up."
With so many books and stories available in the series, the musical really zeroes in on one specific story, Fancy Nancy and the Mermaid Ballet. "It stays pretty true to the book in style and content, but really expands on a few of the characters besides Nancy and her best friend Bree, which I really love," exclaims Madelyn. "There's so much fun stuff in this show that it's difficult to pick just one fun escapade, but I particularly enjoy the scene when Nancy finds out she's not the mermaid. Playing six-year-old anger is a blast!"
As part of her student work at Drake, Madelyn has an emphasis in Theatre Education. She works both with the Iowa High School Musical Theatre Awards at the Civic Center, and with the Playhouse for the past two years including as a lead teacher for various classes for the younger set.
"Working on this show has been so fun, and as an educator it's so cool to pull from experiences I see my students having in the classroom inform the acting choices I'm making. It's also been so inspiring to see how excited my younger cousins are for this show, as a lot of Nancy has been pulled from watching them grow up as the spunky and sweet girls that they are. I've been performing at the Playhouse for over 10 years and with every show I do I feel even luckier to be a part of this community of kind, generous, and top notch performers."
Fancy Nancy will open at the Des Moines Playhouse in the Kate Goldman Children's Theatre starting April 28, with performances on Fridays at 7pm, and on Saturdays and Sundays at both 1pm and 4pm. Shows continue through May 21, and tickets are available at the Playhouse box office or at www.dmplayhouse.com. Ooo-la-la!!!