The New Victory Theater, one of New York City’s best and brightest performing arts space for families, is back with a whole lotta new: a new slate of performances, a newly renovated theater, and a new-to-the-U.S. production of Oscar Wilde’s The Young King, a tale of entitlement—and enlightenment.
The show is the perfect choice to reintroduce the New Vic to the public, since the performance itself is filled with interactive experiences that escort the audience through the freshened-up LuEsther’s Lobby and backstage corridors (aka the Kingdom). In fact, the show starts as soon as you enter, with well-dressed pages asking if you are there for the king’s coronation and, if so, teaching you how to bow and greet the new leader. Some members of the audience even get to sit directly on the stage during the show.
Originally produced by Australian theater company Slingsby, The Young King tells the story of a 16-year-old boy who is about to be crowned king. He’s the child of a humble woodlander and an art-loving princess who was banished from the kingdom. When the princess’s father (the elder king) learns of the boy, he steals the child and offers him to a goat herder to raise. But once the king is old and close to death, he summons the boy to the palace. This fresh-from-the-woods teen king-to-be is enchanted by “the magic and mystery of beautiful things” and is beyond excited to have a luxurious robe, scepter, and crown dotted with rubies and gold bestowed upon him. But on the night before the coronation, the boy is haunted by dreams and questions. Is it acceptable to wear the treasures that others have so gravely labored over?
The show is performed by just two actors—the equally talented and engaging Tim Overton and Jacqy Phillips. While the pair beautifully and realistically morph from character to character onstage with no costume changes, this can be confusing for children to understand. (A little preshow prep is likely a smart idea.) But though the cast is small and the set—smartly designed by Wendy Todd—is sparse, it’s by no means dull. The stage comes alive and transports by way of enchanting shadow puppetry, dioramas, subtle lighting shifts designed by Geoff Cobham, and atmospheric music by Quincy Grant. And children are continuously engaged as they are invited to pass a wrapped parcel to be given to the king on coronation day, asked their weigh-in on a servant’s fate, and more.
While Nicki Bloom—who adapted the story for stage—took out a good majority of the God themes seen in the original production, it’s still a heavy moral tale, wrapped in entitlement, enlightenment, and greed. The play is aimed at audiences 8 years old and up, but younger children may not fully “get” the show. No matter; it will surely spark conversation and delight kids of all ages with a wonderfully interactive theater experience.
Why You Should Go: This immersive experience, which doesn’t rely on putting audience members on the spot, makes The Young King a fresh and enjoyable experience for the whole family. Even older kids will love being instructed on how to properly bow to royalty, wandering through the backstage, making crowns, and seeing the imagination-igniting shadow puppetry.
The Young King
New Victory Theater
209 West 42nd Street (between Seventh and Eighth Avenues), Times Square
Through Sunday, October 22
Ready for an enchanted stroll through the kingdom with your family? We can save you a seat at the New Vic.