LCC’s winning new take on ‘My Emperor’s New Clothes’ at Dart


It didn’t seem like a good plan to have the childless writer review a children’s play, but no one else was available. Off I went to the Kingdom of Mango Chutney, aka Dart Auditorium, to see Lansing Community College’s production of “My Emperor’s New Clothes” with an open mind but curmudgeonly heart. It was a pleasant surprise to find the play fun for all ages.

Larry Shue’s adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen classic is constructed to engage the audience throughout the story. The play begins with the townspeople awaiting a parade, and Pony (Lucas Arend), the emperor’s (Zach Weiler) everyman, invites the audience into the celebration as visitors to the kingdom.

The emperor announces two contests, promising half of the kingdom’s money to each person who can fool him and who can make the finest outfit for him for the parade. Meanwhile, Princess Farthingale (Kitana Espinoza) bemoans her fate never to be married because her father insists she must marry a prince, but none are suitable for marriage. The smitten Pony promises to fool the emperor and win her freedom to choose her suitor.  Con artists Mr. Skreech (Chris Pongracz) and Clodney (Lukas Nowak) arrive in town and hatch a plan to win both purses. Shenanigans ensue, and the plot plays out as expected.

Directed by Paige Tufford, the cast has clearly learned how to engage the audience, and children in particular, through interactive dialogue and slapstick humor. Espinoza and Arend are particularly adept at engaging the audience. Pongracz and Nowak are hilariously dastardly, joyfully embracing their archetypes. Nowak is especially delightful when bopping people on the head with his foam club as a means to get out of trouble.

The opening night crowd seemed to be mostly friends and family of the cast, with just one child in the audience. If that child’s reaction was the gauge for a successful production, the show is a hit. She danced, wiggled and giggled and was rapt by the action on stage.

This is LCC’s first theatrical production in the newly remodeled Dart Auditorium, and the improvements add to the show’s wonder. The auditorium is brighter, making it feel more open and airy. There is now a center aisle, cheery blue carpeting and lighter wood panels on the walls.

Light designer Bob Fernholz makes excellent use of the upgraded lighting system, creating magical effects throughout the entire space. Bart Bauer’s scenic design is outstanding, particularly the backdrop of the village. Topping it all off, Chelle Peterson’s costumes are intricate, colorful and fun.

One doesn’t need to be a child to appreciate “My Emperor’s New Clothes,” but it would probably be more fun to experience it with one. If that’s not an option, then give in to the silliness and don’t be too cool to sing along or give the Mango Chutney salute when invited.

“My Emperor’s New Clothes”

LCC Performing Arts

April 12-13

7 p.m. Friday

2 p.m. Saturday

Dart Auditorium

500 N. Capitol Ave., Lansing


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