I confess — Rapunzel has never been one of my favorite fairy tales. It was one of the first few books my parents ever bought for me, along with another sinister story called Rumplestilskin. Rapunzel, to me, had a lot of technical issues to do deal with: Who in the world would build a tower without any doors or staircases? If the queen had it made, surely someone would start to wonder that some shady stuff is about to go down. (“Just build me a creepy, doorless tower and shut up.”) If hair had been the way by which the queen would visit Rapunzel, how’d she get up or down when Rapunzel had short hair? And how does Rapunzel wash her hair? Surely, the gal needs a Schwarzkopf endorsement. (She is German, after all.)
But like all fairy tales, I eventually learned to suspend disbelief and accept this rather bizarre story. Because Rapunzel is timeless — adapted for centuries in poetry, television, and of course film. Tangled, the 2010 Disney film starring Mandy Moore, gave Rapunzel’s hair superpowers. But the story is all the same: Rapunzel is about a young woman who gains agency from an abusive family member, and quite literally gets rid of the very thing that oppresses her.
This doesn’t change in Repertory Philippines’ adaptation of Rapunzel! Rapunzel! A Very Hairy Fairy Tale. On Repertory’s stage, the story is still set in a magical fairy-tale land, but makes a lot of contemporary references throughout. (At one point, Rapunzel asks herself why she couldn’t have been named Beyoncé instead.) Based on the book, music, and lyrics by Janet Yates Vogt and Mark Friedman, Rep’s Rapunzel also includes a magical dragon, a kooky gypsy witch, and a rather determined hairstylist.
It’s an interesting cast of characters, and the story does try to touch each of their back stories. (The dragon is Rapunzel’s tower guardian, the witch’s powers were stolen by Rapunzel’s stepmother, and the hairstylist is the prince’s best friend.) The first act seemed to work double time on introducing these new characters — while, of course, focusing on Rapunzel (played by Justine Narciso) — but once these things have been established, the story finally finds its groove.
The characters are what makes Rep’s adaptation rather special. Bituin Escalante plays the gypsy witch with a strong New York accent, but you just go with it — in the few moments she gets up on stage, the audience just eat her up. Chino Veguillas as Edgar the hairdresser was a crowd favorite. Mikkie Bradshaw (who is also Rapunzel in some shows) plays the evil stepmother Lady Zaza with wonderful farce. (Of course, all the kids hated her for being the villain but she was my personal favorite.)
Repertory Philippines’ adaptation of Rapunzel! Rapunzel! A Very Hairy Fairy Tale is a thoughtful Christmas gift to a younger family member and for yourself too.
With amazing costumes (Socrates the dragon probably had the best one), a lavish set and a great cast, Rep’s Rapunzel is a great addition to the theater’s wonderful repertoire of kid-friendly offerings. With the holidays coming in, this’ll be a thoughtful gift to give a younger family member. But don’t forget to get one for yourself too. And book a hair appointment right after.
Rapunzel! Rapunzel! A Very Hairy Fairy Tale runs until January 27, 2019 at the Onstage Theatre in Greenbelt 1. For tickets and inquiries, visit @repertoryphilippines on Facebook or go to ticketworld.com.ph.