Funked Up Fairy Tales

Kirsten Childs' "Funked Up Fairy Tales" brushes seriousness away with a wave of its musical wand and is instead simply "propelled by laughter and love and rhythm and rhyme."

D.V. DeVincentis

Some fairy tales come laden with heavy-handed morality. Others probe psycho-sexual subtexts. But Kirsten Childs’ “Funked Up Fairy Tales” brushes seriousness away with a wave of its musical wand and is instead simply “propelled by laughter and love and rhythm and rhyme.” The sassy, silly show, receiving its world preem at Barrington Stage’s Musical Theater Lab run by composer William Finn, should find future adult and young-adult auds grooving to its streetwise, tongue-in-cheek take on a trio of fairy tales.

However, because the show lacks unifying themes or emotional depths it limits itself as purely escapist entertainment. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, especially if it gives multihyphenate Childs, the Obie-winning composer of “The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin,” the chance to show off her musical range and lyrical dexterity. Childs taps into the vibes of country rap, gospel and R&B, not following any genre’s expectation but bringing her own bright, natural and offbeat sensibility to the music.

Show’s loose structure centers around three “fast, high-school age, teeth-sucking, head-wagging” fairies (Rashidra Scott, Alysha Umphress, Christy McIntosh), who are out to get their “happy ending crowns” by assisting royals and peasants in distress and making their wishes come true.

“K-Pig,” based on the Italian fairytale “The Pig Prince,” is about a royal childless couple (Edwina Findley, Desmond Green) whose wish for an offspring is granted — but in the form of a hip-hop-loving pig (Heath Calvert).

“Tammi-Lynn” (based on the Scottish fable “Tam Lin”) focuses on a trailer-park couple — a loving husband (Calvert) and his young wife (McIntosh) who dreams of having “the moon and the stars” and is lured away by a seductive spell-caster (Green).

Final story is a twisted take on “Rumpelstiltskin” called “Mr. Skin,” which has a village girl (Scott) competing for her Prince (Calvert) on a reality show, assisted by a wicked elf (Green) who helps her spin straw into gold in exchange for her firstborn.

Score’s clever, oh-so-contempo lyrics are ripe, adding to the music’s layered richness. Green’s spell-caster song, “The Moon and the Stars,” is a complex jazz-infused number that nicely contrasts with the country-ballad simplicity of Calvert’s beguiling love ode, “Tammi-Lynn,” as both forces tug for the heroine’s heart.

Child’s script has attitude to spare, especially when it comes from the talented triumvirate of hip fairies, who move and sing with girl-group snap and polish. But not all the stories are as sharply focused, especially the middle tale whose narrative, tone and theme waver.

Green cannily morphs from stunned king with a porker for a prince, to a cool, seductive tempter to a hilarious-if-somewhat naughty elf. Calvert works most in the handsome-but-off-kilter prince roles and shows off his full-throated voice (as well as his bod when he sheds his amphibian skin to reveal some royal abs). Findley has fun as the spiritual revivalist “Beyonce from the Beyond.”

Summer workshop production, which allowed critics for the last 10 days of its run, is well-directed by Kevin Del Aguila (book writer for another piece of tasty confection, “Altar Boyz”). Low-tech values and highly-skilled two-man musician combo suit this production well but one can imagine a more enhanced and full-sounding staging, especially one that will allow Childs’ fresh and fun score to soar.

Funked Up Fairy Tales

Berkshire Athenaeum, Pittsfield, Mass.; 99 seats; $30 top

  • Production: A Barrington Stage Company Musical Theater Lab presentation of a musical in one act with book, music and lyrics by Kirsten Childs. Directed by Kevin Del Aguila. Musical director, Darren R. Cohen.
  • Crew: Sets, Brian Prather; costumes, Matthew Hemesath; lighting, Jeff Davis; sound, Daniel A. Little; production stage manager, Jamie Rose Thoma. Opened, Aug. 8, 2007. Reviewed Aug. 9. Runs through Aug. 18. Running time: 1 HOUR, 40 MIN.
  • Cast: <b>With:</b> Christy McIntosh, Rashidra Scott, Alysha Umphress, Edwina Findley, Heath Calvert, Desmond Green. <B>Musical numbers:</B> "Prelude," "Three Magical Fairies," "Ersilia's Dream," "Family Honor," "I Wanna Get Married Momma (Even Though I'm a Pig)," "Don't Look for Nothin' That Can't Be Found," "Tammi-Lynn," "The Moon and the Stars," "The Carter Hall Ball," "Hey Beyonce," "Intervention," "Thrill of Love," "Reality Show Wife," "Brag on Your Daughters," "Straw Into Gold," "On Bended Knee," "Rumpelstiltskin," "Hand Over the Baby," "Epilogue."