South Africa: ‘The Little Prince’, A Charming Story With a Musical Twist

Starting next week, The Little Prince comes alive at Pieter Toerien’s Montecasino Theatre in Johannesburg.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s tale of a pilot and a young alien prince has become one of the best-sold books since its first print run in 1943. The book has been translated to more than 250 languages which makes it the most translated nonreligious book in the world.

Now, South Africa gets to enjoy another twist to the story when The Little Prince – a Mini Musical opens in the city.

The 60-minute musical features original music and lyrics by Wessel Odendaal, with Elizma Badenhorst as director and writer. The first switch-up is the fact that the production features a female pilot, but otherwise, it remains true to its source.

“The book was so well written that it’d be sacrilege to interfere with the author’s original version. It was our mission to stay true to the original book,” says Odendaal.

“One of the unique interpretations we bring to this production is that the aviator is depicted by a female character as the author never mentioned its preferred gender. Elizma saw this as a perfect cue to incorporate a female lead character that brings a unique depiction.”

Odendaal had to create music that appeals to a variety of generations – but he believes De Saint-Exupéry’s words made it an easy translation.


“The book was so well written that it felt like the music and lyrics wrote themselves,” he says. “The book is poetic so it invokes further poetic ventures. I tried to keep the lyrics in a basic rhyme scheme that would appeal to children but, at the same time, would puncture the hearts of adults.”

It also means there’s some punchy tunes, à la Gilbert and Sullivan. “I attempted to compose music that would appeal to various age groups – there are certain pop influences. I feel a vast variety of people and backgrounds could find appeal in the music.”

But that magic only comes when working with a director with a specific vision – and a close relationship with Badenhorst.

“Elizma and I work very closely together, always. Our biggest and best ideas come through laughter – and in this piece, The Little Prince’s laughter is key to understanding what it is about,” Odendaal says.

But hard work went into the show. In total, Odendaal says a year of preplanning was required to bring the famous French story to life. “The past six months had quite a lot of bouncing, fighting, laughing, crying and ululating in order to get us here.”

The Little Prince will run from October 25 until November 25 with a child-friendly show time of 11 am from Wednesdays to Fridays.

If you’ve never experienced this charming story, now is the time to take the whole family and experience pure theatre magic for every age.


Written by PH

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