Rock musical 'Princesses' to be performed at Goodspeed

By Jason Harris - Staff Writer
East Haddam - posted Mon., Jan. 14, 2013
(L-r) Emma Lively, Tyler Beattie and Janece Shaffer, the team behind 'Princesses.' Photo courtesy of Goodspeed Opera House. - Contributed Photo

A new rock musical inspired by the Brothers Grimm will be a part of the Goodspeed Opera House’s 8th Annual Festival of New Artists starting Friday, Jan. 18. “‘Princesses’ is loosely inspired by the Brothers Grimm fairytale, ‘The Twelve Dancing Princesses,’” said Emma Lively, co-writer of the musical.

“We felt like that fairytale, which is actually very short, had the potential to be a big, dance-heavy musical,” Lively said. “It’s not even an adaptation of the fairytale as much as it is loosely inspired by it. We used it as a jumping-off point.”

“Princesses” tells the story of four outrageous princesses who escape the confines of their castle walls and shock the fairytale world with their unconventional ways. Lively’s co-writer, Tyler Beattie, said that he and Lively have grown up on fairy tales and stories and the archetypes they see in them, which has become a part of their thinking.

“It’s a part of the way we think about narrative,” Beattie said. “It’s a part of the way we contextualize our lives up against these stories of princes and princesses.”

Beattie said the Brothers Grimm tale that inspired the musical is about 12 daughters who are trapped in a room by their king. They thought it was a great start for a musical, he said.

“We thought about them less as fairytale archetypes, but more as real women, and what would young women do who were in these fairytale situations?” Beattie said. “It happens in a way that is opposite and temporary and stands in contrast to what we have always known a princess story to be.”

Lively said one of the musical explores the whole idea of princesses. It starts with four imperfect princesses who are unfamiliar with the stereotypical idea of a princess, she said. “I think that they find in this story that their strength is in their imperfections,” Lively said.

Lively said she thinks people try in our culture to achieve perfection, which is not the answer, and is not where their greatest strengths lie. “We live in a very superficial world and this is a show that says what it means to be a princess is to be a real person,” Beattie said.

The writing of the musical didn’t take a long time, but the brainstorming did, Lively said. They read their first draft, which took them a month to write, in March of last year and were reading the second draft by June. “Every day we’re making changes,” Lively said.
Beattie said he doesn’t know when one draft ends and another one begins.

Once they were on the second draft, Beattie and Lively searched for a co-book writer and found Janece Shaffer, who they have been working with for two months now, she said.

“It’s definitely a process we’re discovering every day,” Shaffer said about writing the musical.

Beattie said that Shaffer mentioned the difference between good and great writing the previous day. “It’s a thousand small changes,” Shaffer said.

Beattie said that the writers have learned from the actors performing their works. “I think that having a lot of different actors will sometimes help you to develop the complexity of these people and their world,” Beattie said.

“It’s always helpful to see a live person stand up and read the words,” Lively said.

The 8th Annual Festival of New Artists happens from Jan. 18 through 20 at the Goodspeed Opera House. “Princesses” is performed at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 20. Visit Goodspeed’s website,, for pricing and information about the other activities happening during this three-day festival.

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