Rep turns fairytale into soulful musical comedy


‘The Princess and the Black-Eyed Pea’

Nov. 23 – Dec. 21

Lyceum Theatre

79 Horton Plaza

(619) 544-1000

Hans Christian Andersen’s 1835 fable “The Princess and the Pea” has entertained audiences and readers for years. The story of a young woman declared an authentic princess because a pea under a stack of mattresses keeps her from sleeping, is again transformed in San Diego Repertory Theatre’s “The Princess and the Black-Eyed Pea.”

The world premiere of the new musical comedy unfolds Nov. 23 through Dec. 21 at Horton Plaza’s Lyceum Theatre and is suitable for all ages.

The San Diego Rep has amassed a team of artists who are currently in rehearsal to bring their imaginative show to the stage. Critically acclaimed singer and actress Jennifer Leigh Warren, who sings and dances in the show, is excited about the play’s uniqueness.

“With Stafford Arima (‘Altar Boyz’) directing, a book by Kirsten Childs (‘The Highwayman’), choreographing by Todd L. Underwood (‘Smokey Joe’s Cafe’) and featuring music and lyrics by Andrew Chukerman and Karole Foreman, the show is taking on this beautiful life of it’s own,” Warren said. “It’s also exciting that cast members were allowed to improvise and explore their own ideas about their characters.”

The musical places a mix of bossy parents, a gutsy princess, a scientifically-minded prince and madcap bridal contestants in two colorful African kingdoms. When Princess Quelie (Sabrina Sloan, “Dreamgirls”) decides to nix her father’s conventional wisdom and enters a forbidden dance contest, she finds an unexpected surprise.

“What’s so wonderful about this show,” Warren said, “is that Stafford allows the actors to be storytellers who actually create a story that comes out of simple things that open a world of imagination.”

Warren brings an impressive resume to her role as Hena in the show. She is a multi Ovation and Garland award-winner for a song written for her by Roger Miller in Broadway’s “Big River,” and also for her performance in “Hello Again.” She’s performed on stage in “Little Shop of Horrors,” “Hair” “Marie Christine” and others. Her many film and TV roles include TV’s “Lipstick Jungle,” “Dirt” and “ER,” and feature films “The Crossing Guard,” “Dear God” and “Sour Grapes.”

Expanding her international credits, Warren recently traveled to Europe where she sang a song from “The Princess and the Black-Eyed Pea.”

“I performed the song with Al Jarreau in Denmark on the European TV show ‘Musical of the Year,’ ” she said. “I had also done a demo tape of the song a few years ago for Andie Chukerman to help sell the show. I knew from both of these experiences this show had great potential.”

The cast of “The Princess and the Black-Eyed Pea” includes Lillias White, Sabrina Sloan, Tonex, Ken Prymus Jr. and Josh Tower. The play won the 2008 Edgerton Foundation New American Play Award.

Warren is excited that the show is a family event.

“It’s a very universal story with something for everyone,” she said. “The music covers R&B, pop and Broadway musicals. Adults and kids will love that it draws upon each individual’s imagination. There are things in this show that literally take my breath away.”