Once upon a time in a distant kingdom, an outwardly plain and inwardly
ugly princess was sent to live with a mysterious woman and her family in the
hopes of making her more attractive to the realm’s princes. During her stay,
she learns the value of inner beauty and the meaning of a caring and unselfish
life. The Plain Princess, adapted from an
original fairy tale with enchanting music and lyrics, is fine family
entertainment that ends happily ever after.
Scene I – The Royal Banquet Hall
It’s the birthday celebration of young Princess Esmeralda and as the members of the Royal Court scurry about in preparation for the festivities, they discuss the challenges of serving a princess who is “plain” (“Fanfare Esmeralda”/”A Party for a Princess”). They are joined by the King and Queen as well as the party guests who all express similar feelings. Princess Esmeralda is the last to arrive and is indeed everything promised: joyless, bland, expressionless and spoiled. The guests present their gifts which are greeted without appreciation and when it is discovered that one of the guests, Prince Charles Michael, has disappeared, Esmeralda throws a tantrum and a search begins. After an attempt to calm Esmeralda with a lullaby (“Night Song”), Charles Michael is found down by the duck pond playing with the duck-keeper’s daughter. When asked why, he replies that she has a twinkle in her eyes, a pleasant smile, and that he likes her better than Esmeralda. Esmeralda shrieks and has to be carried from the room. The party guests express their thanks for the party and leave, including Charles Michael who apologizes for upsetting Esmeralda with his honesty. Realizing the dire situation, the King and Queen call upon the Wizard of State and the Court Physician to do something about Esmeralda’s “plainness.” They protest that they have tried everything within their areas of expertise (“Magician or Physician?”) whereupon the King determines to issue a royal proclamation in order to find someone who can transform Esmeralda (“The Royal Decree”). Weeks pass without anyone coming forth but at last a widow named Dame Goodwit arrives to accept the challenge. She insists that Princess Esmeralda must come to live with her and her five daughters (“The Magic’s in the Doing”). She promises that after nine months, the King and Queen will be allowed to come and get her but must stay away until then. Esmeralda must also leave behind all of her royal possessions with the exception of a pearl locket given to her by her mother. They reluctantly agree and Esmeralda is sent away with Dame Goodwit.
Scene II – The Goodwit Cottage Exterior/Interior
As Dame Goodwit and Esmeralda arrive at the Goodwit cottage, Esmeralda is chagrined by its humble appearance. Dame Goodwit assures her that she will be most comfortable and calls for her girls to come out and meet the princess. One by one, they emerge and are introduced to Esmeralda: Annabelle, Christabelle, Dulcibelle, Floribelle and Echo (“Four Lovely Bells and Echo”). They greet her warmly and escort her into the house. When they offer her a freshly cooked egg for supper she throws a tantrum and is further enraged when she discovers that none of her fine gowns have been packed for her visit. She threatens to have them all executed for kidnapping her but Dame Goodwit calmly indicates the sofa where Esmeralda will be sleeping, leaves her a fresh-baked roll in case she gets hungry during the night, and exits with the five girls. Left alone, Esmeralda unsuccessfully tries to get comfortable on the sofa and, exhausted and hungry, begrudgingly eats the roll.
Scene III – The Goodwit Cottage Interior/Exterior
All six Goodwits are busily making breakfast preparations while Esmeralda lies snoring on the sofa. As they all sit down to eat, Dame Goodwit asks Echo to awaken the princess and she obliges by cheerily jumping onto the sofa. Esmeralda bolts awake and refuses to come to the table for oatmeal but is enticed by its aroma when Floribelle waves the bowl under her nose. However, she isn’t permitted to eat until she has performed her morning chores: making her bed and tidying up the mess made by her tantrum the night before. She does so resentfully and finally gobbles down the delicious oatmeal. Afterward, she is asked to assist the sister with the clean up chores but fails miserably in her attempts. The six girls then go outside to enjoy some “garden games” and try to get Esmeralda to join in the fun (“The Aim of the Game”). Without the help of her usual staff of servants, Esmeralda struggles to join in but finally relents and, after an awkward attempt at running, tackles Christabelle and the sisters laughingly join them on the ground. Suddenly, a meadowlark’s song rings through the air and the sisters all look at Esmeralda in amazement. They tell her that her nose has changed and call out for their mother to come and see. As Dame Goodwit surveys the transformation, she explains that it is probably because Esmeralda has stopped turning up her nose at everything.
Scene IV – An Exterior Balcony of the Castle
Three months have passed and the Queen and King share their feelings of how much they miss Esmeralda (“More Than Me or You”). The Royal Messenger, who has been spying on the Goodwit cottage, arrives and tells them that he has seen no sign of any magic or change in the princess. They offer their thanks and remind themselves that patience is going to be required.
Scene V – The Goodwit Cottage Interior/Exterior
The Goodwits are all busily engaged in their favorite activities. Annabelle and Dame Goodwit are trying to teach Esmeralda how to embroider but she repeatedly pricks her finger with the needle and gives up in frustration. She then tries to help Dulcibelle and Echo decorate a fresh batch of muffins with frosting roses but accidentally squeezes a huge blob of frosting all over everything. Floribelle and Christabelle invite her to help with a floral wreath that they are making but Esmeralda sneezes and scatters the blossoms everywhere. The girls all burst into laughter causing Esmeralda to fling herself onto the sofa weeping with frustration and embarrassment. Although all of the girls are eager to comfort her, Dame Goodwit asks Echo to speak to the princess alone and ushers the other girls out of the room. Echo sweetly consoles Esmeralda and asks her to tell her about life in the palace and the kinds of things that the princess was good at doing back there. Esmeralda responds that she was very good at giving orders and enjoyed that immensely. She demonstrates and encourages Echo to give it a try. As Echo begins to mimic every word and inflection, Dame Goodwit reenters just as Echo turns toward her and says, “Who do you think you’re talking to? Don’t bother me with that right now!” Humiliated when she realizes what she has just said to her mother, she runs crying outside. Understanding what has just transpired, Dame Goodwit helps Esmeralda to realize why Echo feels so badly and encourages her to go out and comfort Echo. In an attempt to console Echo, Esmeralda remembers her mother’s lullaby and gently begins to sing it to her (“Night Song Reprise”). The other Goodwits slip silently out of the cottage and listen as the meadowlark is heard again. The girls quietly comment on how beautiful Esmeralda’s voice has begun to sound and Dame Goodwit suggests to them that this is probably the first time she has used it to make someone else feel better. Annabelle observes that it’s just like magic.
Scene VI – The Goodwit Cottage Interior
In the early hours of the morning, Esmeralda awakens famished. She is craving one of Dulcibelle’s delectable muffins but she herself ate the last one the night before. Not wishing to awaken the others, she decides to try her first attempt at baking having watched Dulcibelle make muffins numerous times. She sloppily assembles the ingredients in gleeful anticipation of the outcome. Time passes and the muffins are ready to come out of the oven. Esmeralda is ecstatic at this achievement and is eager to share them with the Goodwit family who have been awakened by the smell (“Muffins”). Although they turn out to be both doughy and burnt, the Goodwits don’t mention this but instead draw attention to Esmeralda’s beaming smile. With the song of the meadowlark in the background, Dame Goodwit remarks that accomplishing something all by ourselves brings great satisfaction and an inner glow.
Scene VII – The Balcony of the Castle
Six months have now passed and the Royal Messenger is once again reporting to the King and Queen. They are saddened that there is no further news other than the smell of something burnt coming from inside the cottage. Seeing their disappointment, he apologizes and slinks away. The King and Queen express how much they need to trust Dame Goodwit and how very much they miss their daughter (“More Than Me or You Reprise”).
Scene VIII – The Goodwit Cottage Interior/Exterior
All of the Goodwits with the exception of Echo are all busily preparing gifts for Echo’s birthday surprise. Esmeralda enters with freshly picked vegetables from the garden and, seeing the presents, assumes that they are going away gifts for her. After being reminded by Dame Goodwit that it’s Echo’s birthday, she realizes her mistake and runs outside in embarrassment under the pretense that that is where she left the gift she has for Echo. The girls attempt to follow her but Dame Goodwit knowingly allows her time alone with her thoughts. Out in the garden, Esmeralda reveals her many conflicting feelings (“Who I’ll Be”). She feels unimportant and useless compared to the Goodwit daughters and their many talents. She knows she wants to be something more and remembers the many things she has learned during her time in the cottage. She resolves to be better.
Back in the cottage, Echo enters from the market to a surprise party from her family. Esmeralda slips in immediately after and stealthily adds something wrapped up in a large leaf to the pile of presents. Echo revels in the beautiful handmade gifts from her sisters and when she spies mystery bundle no one admits to knowing anything about where it came from. Upon Dame Goodwit’s suggestion, Echo opens it to find Esmeralda’s precious pearl locket. Although Echo is delighted, Esmeralda apologizes with tears in her eyes because it wasn’t homemade like the other gifts. Dame Goodwit dismisses her concerns and reminds her what a priceless gift it was because it came from Esmeralda’s heart. Once again, the meadowlark is heard as all of the Goodwits are overwhelmed by the light and joy coming from Esmeralda’s eyes. As Christabelle fetches a mirror to show Esmeralda what has happened, the princess fastens the locket around Echo’s neck stating that it has never looked better. When Esmeralda sees her own reflection, she recognizes the change and proclaims Dame Goodwit a powerful magician. Dame Goodwit lovingly points out that Esmeralda has exactly the same face with which she first entered the cottage and that the real change has come from within. Christabelle declares that there’s one more package and hands it to Echo who in turn hands it to Esmeralda. She protests that it’s not her birthday but is told to open it anyway. Inside is a family portrait of the Goodwits that Christabelle has drawn...and Esmeralda is at the very center of the group. The Goodwits tell her that she is now a part of their family and will always be welcome in their home.
Suddenly, a trumpet fanfare sounds heralding the arrival of the King and Queen who are coming to take Esmeralda home. The Goodwits hurry to the garden to greet them as they are announced by the Royal Messenger. The King and Queen inquire as to the whereabouts of Esmeralda and as she emerges from the cottage they are overwhelmed by her appearance. She greets them graciously with a curtsey then rushes to their open arms. Her parents proclaim Dame Goodwit a genius but she brushes it off saying that the transformation was all Esmeralda’s doing. The princess asks her parents if it would be all right for the Goodwits to move into the castle with them and, although the King grants his permission, Dame Goodwit turns down the invitation stating that they are perfectly content to stay right where they are. After promising that they will come to the castle to visit, Esmeralda then asks her parents if it would be all right to invite the duck-keeper’s daughter for tea so that she can apologize for the way Esmeralda treated her on her birthday. Her parents are completely taken aback by this amazing change in their daughter and tell her that the entire court has followed them to the cottage in eager anticipation. Esmeralda hides behind them as the remainder of the court arrives. They are all shocked and delighted by the transformation and the Wizard and Physician ask Dame Goodwit for her secret. As a final surprise, Prince Charles Michael arrives and, upon seeing Esmeralda’s astonishing appearance, is struck speechless. The King and Queen express their love and gratitude for their now happy daughter (“Finale”) and declare a day of celebration and revelry. However, Esmeralda suddenly brings everything to a grinding halt declaring that she doesn’t want any festivities. The court and the Goodwits wait in breathless anticipation of what it is that Esmeralda actually wants and she tells them that she simply wants to bake…muffins…for all of them. She shares the wonderful things she has learned and, amid a flurry of waltzing, her crown is returned to her head as she is proclaimed “Esmeralda, The Unplain!”
Prince Charles Michael
The Duck-Keeper’s Daughter
The Royal Physician
The Wizard Of State
The Royal Messenger
Setting: The Time: Once Upon a Time… The Place: A Distant Kingdom
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The production materials for The Plain Princess include:
Production Scripts, Piano/Vocal Score
Orchestrations: Keyboard, Bass, Violin, Flute, Clarinet, Oboe, Bass Clarinet, Alto Sax
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Director's Script – Single-sided script with space for director’s notes.