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Beloved 'Little Prince' comes to Sheldon

The Aviator (David Oakes) talks with the Little Prince (Rhett Waller). (Photo by Rob Meyer)

By Ruth Nerhaugen, contributor

“The Little Prince” isn’t a traditional holiday show, but director Min MartinOakes chose it for Phoenix Theatre’s Christmas production because she believes, “This is a beautiful story. It has a lot to tell us. … It’s a piece of literature I have loved ever since I read it.”

The play will be staged at 7 p.m. Dec. 12-14 and at 2 p.m. Dec. 15 in the Sheldon Theatre.

The story of an Aviator, who crashes his plane in the Sahara Desert, and the Little Prince he encounters there has been around since 1943. That’s when “Le Petit Prince” first was published by French writer, poet and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

It became one of the best-selling books ever published. “The Little Prince” has been translated into more than 250 languages and has been adapted into a broad range of media, including movie musicals, ballets and operas in addition to several versions of a stage play.

MartinOakes chose to use the non-musical, “more flexible” version that uses a larger cast. Fifteen people will appear in the holiday production. Some roles will be performed by one actor Dec. 12-13 and by a different actor Dec. 14-15.

The two main characters are the Little Prince, who is played by Rhett Waller, and the Aviator, who is played by David Oakes.

The Aviator is disoriented, lost, wondering how he will get back home. The Little Prince, who is something of a philosopher, “teaches the aviator a lot about life,” MartinOakes said. “They learn from each other.”

The Little Prince tells the visitor about his own planet, she said, and takes the Aviator on a tour of different planets he’s visited. Each planet is occupied by only one person, with whom the Little Prince interacts.

Because of the way the story is told, most of the other characters have small roles in terms of how long they are on stage, MartinOakes said.

“We have some really good actors in these small roles,” she said. “I think it will be pretty fast-paced,” she added, anticipating some suspense as the audience waits to see who will appear next.

“There is a resolution at the end,” Oakes noted. “The outcome for the Little Prince is handled gently in this version.”

The story is somewhat autobiographical, she said. “The author was originally a pilot. He crashed in the Sahara and came close to dying of thirst.”

In addition, she said, de Saint-Exupery lost his brother as he was growing up. “Some of the philosophy of the show” comes from that experience. “Many people think the Little Prince represents the brother he lost.”

The two-act play is suitable for all ages, said MartinOakes, who has directed several Phoenix shows in addition to Soapbox Players productions at Hobgoblin Music.

In recent years, she has directed “Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus,” “Little Women” and “Miracle on 34th Street.”

Quality scripts that are strictly about the holidays are hard to find, MartinOakes pointed out. She chose “Little Women” because it, too, was “a beautiful story.”

The message of “The Little Prince” connects to Christmas, in her mind.

“At Christmas we tend to live with a more generous, mindful spirit. The rest of the year we tend to forget that. This show is about living with that mindful spirit daily,” she said.

Her favorite line in the play is an insight he shares with the Aviator: “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. … What is essential is invisible to the eye.”

Supporting the production are Emily Seefeldt as assistant director/stage manager, assisted by high school student Tori Miller; Sara Shannon on costumes; Randy McLaughlin on sound, Josh Cichy on lighting; Michelle Walker on props. In addition, ArtReach artist Paul O’Connell will provide the sketches that the Aviator creates during the course of the story.

Tickets are $20.50 for adults and $12.50 for students. They’re available at the Sheldon box office or For more information, call 651-388-8700.

If you go...

Who:Phoenix Theatre

What: “The Little Prince”

When: 7 p.m. Dec. 12-14, 2 p.m. Dec. 15

Where: Sheldon Theatre

Cost: $20.50 adults, $12.50 students

More info: 651-388-8700 or