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'Princess Academy' musical to debut at South Jordan's Kensington Theatre

Miri, played by Maggie Scott, and Peder, played by Trenton Conover, star in the new original musical based on Shannon Hale's novel "Princess Academy."
Miri, played by Maggie Scott, and Peder, played by Trenton Conover, star in the new original musical based on Shannon Hale's novel "Princess Academy."
Kensington Theatre

SOUTH JORDAN — Shannon Hale's Newbery honor-winning story of a small heroine will become a stage musical this month.

"Princess Academy" debuts Dec. 9 at the Kensington Theatre with an original script written by Katherine P. Brown and music arranged and orchestrated by Michelle Willis.

A play based on the novel was previously adapted and performed by the BYU Department of Theatre and Media Arts in 2015, but the Kensington Theatre production will be the world premiere of the musical adaptation.

In the story, Miri is a young woman who has dreamed her whole life of working with other villagers in the quarries of Mount Eskel.

The problem is her size. She's always being denied her dreams because she's so small.

When the king's priests announce Mount Eskel as the home of the next princess and bride-to-be, Miri becomes part of the mountain academy for potential princesses learning the skills required for royal life. Soon, Miri finds herself surrounded by competitors and confrontations until danger threatens everyone at the academy, and it's up to her to save everyone.

The show's director Toni Butler says Hale's book lend itself perfectly to musical adaptation.

"Actually, when I read the book, I said (to Hale, who is involved with the theater and has children in the play), 'This should be a musical.'"

The poems Hale included at the start of each chapter work as lead-ins to songs, and the villagers sing as they work at annual celebrations and balls.

Brown has written seven songs that Butler says are beautiful.

The cast has 110 members with 20 girls, Butler said, making for a musical that lends itself to drama, color and song.

Miri is played by Maggie Scott, a young actress who commutes from Midway to South Jordan to be part of the show. Scott said she started acting at the age of 8, and she is now 15. Among her acting credits are roles in "The Secret Garden" at Hale Center Theater Orem and in "Mary Poppins" at Hale Center Theatre in West Valley City, and Scott said she's thrilled to take on the role of Miri.

"It's seriously so amazing," she said in a recent interview. "I love the books, and I love the music. I couldn't believe Michelle could write seven new songs that are so good."

Scott said the show will appeal to those looking for a bigger picture and deeper level to the simple story, adding that the director is always thinking of what's new and what would work to make the show better.

Prince Steffan is played by Geoff Beckstrand, and Trenton Conover, who Butler says has raw talent and real personality, plays the part of Miri's best friend Peder.

Butler said Kensington Theatre started as Daybreak Community Theater and later was embraced by South Jordan City until the managers decided two years ago to go at it on their own. She said there are plans to build a new theater and to cultivate and encourage theatrical exploration and development.

If you go …

What: "Princess Academy"

When: Dec. 9-21, dates and times vary

Where: Kensington Theatre, 11709 South Vadania Drive, South Jordan

Tickets: $12 in advance and $15 at the door for evening performances; $8 in advance and $10 at the door for matinees

Phone: 801-382-9328

Web: kensingtontheatre.org

Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with more than 35 years' experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com.

Email: haddoc@deseretnews.com