An electrical outage opening night delayed the start time of the world premiere of “Spellbound: A Musical Fable,” but the cast had so much energy, they could have powered the lights by themselves.
Their effervescence was evident throughout the adventurous journey, a testament to Gary F. Bell, the artistic director of Stray Dog, who wrote the musical with Robert L. White. Both share credits for music, lyrics and book.
A mash-up of familiar fairy tales, sprinkled with inspiring messages about hopes, dreams and finding your own path, the ambitious labor of love benefitted from exceptional production values. Rob Lippert of O’Fallon has created stunning sets over the past two years, but this intricate forest, lit by the moon, and featuring elevated brambles, is as striking as anything he’s ever done on that intimate stage.
The eye-popping rainbow of costumes, designed by Bell and Eileen Engel with a nod to Japanese anime, added a fun element, as did the outrageous wigs designed by Patricia Case.
Clever homages to Cinderella, Jungle Book, Snow White and other time-honored folklore help keep the show engaging, and the ebullient cast worked overtime to entertain.
Meadow Tien Nguy of O’Fallon lights up the stage as Arabella, whose desire to attend the Carnival is dashed by a flamboyant evil stepmom (Deborah Shairn) and mean-girl stepsisters (Eileen Engel, Maria Bartolotta). Her well-meaning but misguided father (always strong Patrick Kelly) must help set things right.
Nguy charms in solo ballads and sweet duets with the man of her dreams, Prince Adama (multi-talented Chris Tipp). His versatility is also on display as a lithe Bengal Tiger she encounters along her mission.
The show is filled with humorous touches. Perennial scene-stealer Mike Wells of Belleville is a hoot as a trusty dog/man servant, while Corey Fraine is comical as a con-artist Rat.
Sizzling powerhouse Kimmie Kidd was delightful as a sassy, saucy Lady Bird -- shades of Mae West and Cookie on “Empire.” And wow, can that girl sing.
Zach Stefaniak, who excels at choreography in that small space, works his magic in robust numbers, and acts as the wise ruler overseeing his kingdom. Paula Dean Stoff shades her enchantress with some ditzy touches.
The ensemble musical numbers take on a carefree hippy-dippy “Hair” vibe, and that provides some oomph and pizzazz. The cast’s electricity was evident throughout the night. They endeared themselves as woodland creatures in a fantasyland — and obviously had fun creating in this original work.
“Spellbound: A Musical Fable”
Who: Stray Dog Theatre
When: Wednesday and Saturday
Where: Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee Ave., St. Louis
Tickets: www.StrayDogTheatre.org; 314-865-1995