REVIEW: "FANCY NANCY, THE MUSICAL"—Chance Theater

Updated: Jun 2

This Little Lady can Change Bland into Chic!


Chance Theater, Anaheim’s official resident theater company, announces its 5th production of “Fancy Nancy, The Musical,” based on the wildly popular children’s series by Jane O’Connor, now playing on the Cripe Stage through June 19th. First presented on the Chance stage in 2015, “Fancy Nancy” is one of those rare productions that not only manages to translate a storybook into stage-worthy dialogue and lyrics, it also captures the spirit of Robin Preiss Glasser’s vivacious drawings, including the look of the characters—which is pretty amazing when you consider that the youngsters in the illustrations are played by fresh-faced adults in the musical. And it’s this visual parallel that inspired veteran director/actor Laura M. Hathaway ("A Little Prince") in a major way.


Picture Nancy, her bright red hair is piled on top of her head, with random curls flying everywhere and streaks of fuchsia throughout. She wears paper crowns, colorful sunglasses, and little ribbons on her skirts. But even though Nancy is a girly-girl and loves sparkle and glamour, her physical appearance is never an issue. This is a wonderful message for girls, a message that says you shouldn’t be worried what you look like, as long as you are being the person that you want to be!


Angela Griswold as Nancy in Chance Theater's TYA production of "Fancy Nancy, The Musical

The musical’s score, which won the 2013 “CD Of The Year Award” from Creative Child Magazine and the 2013 Silver Winner from National Parenting Publications, parades an irresistible collection of ingenious tunes by award-winning composer/lyricist Danny Abosch and lyricist Susan DiLallo (who also skillfully adapted the book to the stage). With musical direction by Robyn Manion ("West Side Story"), the show is stage managed by Lindsay Marsh.

Nancy, a little girl with a fancy for all things fancy—tiaras, cloth napkins, costumery (even when it’s not Halloween), vocabulary words (a butterfly’s not “pretty,” it’s “exquisite”), French phrases (“suives-moi” for “follow me”)—and her friends (including BFF Bree) learn their dance class is putting on a show called “Deep Sea Dances.” Naturally, Nancy and Bree are primed to be mermaids—“the fanciest of [sea] creatures”—but are crushed to learn they weren’t picked to be the show’s one mermaid. Worst of all, Nancy is playing a tree—an ordinary, not-at-all-fancy tree—and Bree gets cast as an oyster.


Jillian Batt as Nancy and Katie Brown as Mrs. Clancy in Chance Theater's TYA production of "Fancy Nancy, The Musical.

They’re disappointed until Mom reminds them of the importance of making the most of every part we are called on to play in life, and also reminds them of the healing power of tea parties. All is fine until fate steps in and Nancy learns some very important lessons about friendship, jealousy, and just how incredibly fabulous a tree can be.


For fans of the books, the script has been culled largely from “Fancy Nancy and the Mermaid Ballet,” so piscatorial references float, wriggle, and synchronized swim cheerfully throughout the show’s second number, “What I’ll Be.” Other notable numbers are “Anyone Can Be Fancy,” “You’ll Always Feel Much Better After Tea,” and the highlight of the show, “The Deep Sea Dances Ballet,” where the cast performs the school play and shimmies from shark to jellyfish to seahorse in an enchanted underwater paradise.


Jillian Batt as Nancy and Juliet Parker as Bree in Chance Theater's TYA production of "Fancy Nancy, The Musical

The cast of “Fancy Nancy, The Musical” will feature a mix of newcomers and returning actors: Jillian Batt (“Alice in Wonderland”), and Angela Griswold (“A Charlie Brown Christmas”) share the role of Nancy; Julie Parker, in her Chance debut, and Liz B. Williams (“A Chorus Line”) share the role of Bree; Gabbie Adner (“Parade”) plays Rhonda; Alyssa Corella (“A Wrinkle in Time”) plays Wanda; Emily Abeles (“Anne of Green Gables”) will be the swing for Wanda and Rhonda; Jaylen Baham (“Next to Normal”) and Matt Takahashi (“A Charlie Brown Christmas”) share the role of Lionel; and Katie Brown (“Loch Ness, A New Musical”) and Erika C. Miller (“She Loves Me”) will share the role of Mrs. Clancy.


For the Sunday performance attended, Angela Griswold was remarkable in the role of Nancy, convincingly portraying that naïve, wide-eyed innocence of youthful adolescence. Another standout performance was Matt Takahashi as Lionel, the only male friend in Nancy’s world. As the comic foil with Nancy and the rest of the female ensemble, Mr. Takahashi was splendid with his portrayal of the rapping shark in the Deep Sea Dance recital. Juliet Parker was a wonderful Bree; a prodigious Gabbie Adner was Rhonda; Alyssa Corella was a phenomenal Wanda and Mrs. Clancy, Nancy’s Mom, was played by a wise and gentle Katie Brown.


Jaylen Baham as Lionel, Gabbie Adner as Rhonda, Jillian Batt as Nancy, Juliet Parker as Bree, and Alyssa Corella as Wanda in Chance Theater's TYA production of "Fancy Nancy, The Musical

Decked out with lavish (a fancy word for “fancy”) sets, costumes, laughter and camaraderie (a fancy word for “friendship”), young theatregoers were encouraged to take part in a tres fabuleux (that’s fancy French for “very fabulous”) Fancy Nancy get-together in the lobby after the show! Set Designer Megan Hill nicely transformed the stage of the Chance Theater into a colorful, and dazzling set, incorporating lots of sparkle. Not only were audiences able to see Nancy’s bedroom-fully arrayed with a spectrum of color, but it felt as if the pages of the illustrated children’s book were actually coming to life on stage. In the second half of the production, the stage is transformed into an under the sea wonderland with colorful costumes, and projected waves, bubbles, and jellyfish.


Juliet Parker as Bree, Jaylen Baham as Lionel, Alyssa Corella as Wanda, and Jillian Batt as Nancy in Chance Theater's TYA production of "Fancy Nancy, The Musical

Lighting was designed by Masako Tobaru and was also very color-filled and vibrant. The mood was established early and remained solidly consistent throughout the production, or as Nancy would describe it, “iridescent” and “poly-chromatic.” And the costumes, designed by Christina Perez, were also quite prismatic, vibrant and kaleidoscopic, and complemented the characters portrayed in the story.


"Fancy Nancy, The Musical" will take you on an amazing journey. The set is straight out of a storybook enriched by the beautiful voices of the cast members. Under Ms. Hathaway’s direction, the cast illustrates that ordinary children can be fancy too, and, even more important, that Fancy Nancy can be an ordinary child.


“Fancy Nancy” might be girly, but she’s also very smart. One of the selling points for parents and teachers is that the character teaches vocabulary, often saying things like, “My favorite color is fuchsia. That’s a fancy way of saying purple.” And she’s full of clever bon mots using French words, like “bon mot”—fancy French for “good word.” But come wanting to have fun. The audience is almost like a fashion show. They put on their finest tiaras, they’ll wear boas, tutus, mermaid costumes, ruby slippers and fairy wings…anything they’ve seen Nancy wear. Looking over the sea of adorable little girls, all you could see was pink feathers, shiny frippery, and Big, Big Smiles!


"Fancy Nancy, The Musical," with Book & Lyrics by Susan DiLallo, Music & Lyrics by Danny Abosch, based on the book "Fancy Nancy" by Jane O'Connor, Directed by Laura M. Hathaway, Musically Directed by Robyn Manion, based on original staging by Kelly Todd, is presented by Chance Theater, Anaheim, playing from May 27th through June 19th, with performances on Fridays at 7:00PM, Saturdays and Sundays at 11:00AM, 1:00PM and 5:00PM. Running time is approximately 1 hour, 10 minutes with one intermission. Chance Theater is located at 5522 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim. For Tickets, please visit: www.chancetheater.com or call (888) 455-4212.


Chris Daniels

Arts & Entertainment Reviewer

The Show Report

www.theshowreport.org


Photo Credits: Doug Catiller