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A Little Princess


Musical in 2 Acts: Book and Lyrics by Brian Crawley; Music by Andrew Lippa; Based on the novel by Francis Hodgson Burnett


Written by Tony-nominated composer and lyricist Andrew Lippa (The Addams Family, The Wild Party) and award-winning book-writer and lyricist Brian Crawley (Violet), A Little Princess is the story of a little girl with a great big imagination. A Little Princess, which features an updated script, score, orchestrations, and new material, is based on Francis Hodgson Burnett's children's novel, popular since the late 19th century. The story has been made into several films, including the darling little Shirley Temple Fox film in 1936.

Separated from her father, and the open-hearted Africans who have helped him raise her, young Sara Crewe is sent to boarding school in London. When things go badly for her there, her imaginative powers come to the rescue – helping to transform a drab institution into a place of magic and mystery. As the girl wins the affection of the other boarders she draws the ire of Miss Minchin, the dour headmistress; Sara is made a servant to the institution when her father is reported dead, and his fortune seized. Sara counters all Miss Minchin’s best efforts to degrade her with the grace and virtue of a little princess.

A new version of A Little Princess premiered with a concert staging at Texas State University October 16-19, 2011. The Texas State University production, conducted by Andrew Lippa, provided the opportunity to finalize the script, score, orchestrations and new material.


Act I

Sara is in trouble from the outset. She has been sent to her room without supper for coming to the table barefoot. Becky, a young maid about the same age, smuggles a muffin upstairs to Sara, and peppers her with questions about what life was like in Africa.

Everyone else at the London school has been stand-offish, so Sara is glad to answer the questions, and invites Becky to picture the send-off she received from her friends in Fort St. Louis in. After the townspeople wish her the best, Sara's father, Captain Crewe, bids her a private farewell. He reveals he must send her to London as he is embarking upon a mission of exploration to the forbidden city of Timbuktu. He promises, once the Saharan trek is over, he will return to London to fetch her home. Sara and Becky's reverie is over when Miss Minchin surprises the two girls. Servants and schoolgirls are not meant to mix; Minchin asks Becky to fetch her cane. Sara protests that her father's instructions were that she was not to be corporally punished. Miss Minchin replies she is aware of the instructions, and will beat Becky in Sara's stead. Between the bare feet and illicit camaraderie, Minchin is convinced Sara has no idea how to behave in a civilized fashion. She therefore forbids Sara to speak to anyone without permission. Once the monstrous headmistress leaves, Sara vents her frustration.

The next day the other schoolgirls corner Becky and demand to know everything she learned about Sara. The girls are envious of Sara's wealth, and her privileges - she's out riding a pony while the rest take their exercise in a courtyard – but curious as well. Lavinia, the oldest and meanest of the girls, threatens to harm Becky just as Sara returns from her ride. Lavinia backs own when she sees Sara's riding crop. She continues though to tease Becky, joking about the accident that left Becky an orphan.

To comfort Becky, Sara confides her own mother is deceased. She offers to help Becky get in touch with her mother's spirit. Miss Amelia, Miss Minchin's sister, can't resist this idea. Sara begins to tell the girls how to contact spirits. Her tales are so vivid they seem to come to life. Soon the schoolgirls are joined by imagined Africans in a joyous dance; a spirit enjoins Becky to let her heart be her compass. It is Sara's first success with the other schoolgirls. But it is short-lived. During the dance Lavinia leaves to fetch Miss Minchin, who arrives furious. As part of Sara's punishment, Minchin tears a letter from Captain Crewe into pieces. She also sends Becky to the workhouse.

In Africa, Captain Crewe is met with one setback after another. His retinue dies off; his trade goods are stolen; he is detained by a tribal leader with deep suspicions as to an Englishman's reasons for being there. Feverish, despairing, Crewe imagines how happy his daughter must be in London.

Sara's defence of Becky has won her two new confidantes: Ermengarde, who has pieced together Crewe's letter for Sara, and Lottie, the youngest of the schoolgirls, who is intrigued by the doll Sara brought with her from Africa. Sara enlists their help to create such chaos at school that Becky is recalled from the workhouse, and restored to her position. Miss Minchin, realizing she has been outmanoeuvred, believes all Sara's advantages come to her because she has been born lucky.

Meanwhile in Sara's room, Ermengarde and Lottie apologize to Becky for their past transgressions against her, and promise to be her friends in future, just as Sara is. Becky is cowed at first. Sara assures her that wealth and position are mere 'accidents of birth’; Becky is willing to agree that even if it were the other way around, she and Sara would have wound up friends (“The Tables Were Turned”). Time passes and Sara's birthday arrives. Miss Minchin is a bit more disposed to be kind to the girl; rumours have reached London that Captain Crewe made it to Timbuktu. Minchin has made a small fortune on the resultant stock market speculation. Sara's classmates are fascinated by a large box from the London docks. It turns out to be full of presents Sara has ordered for the other girls.

There is no time to enjoy them. A barrister brings news that not only did Crewe never make it to Timbuktu, he died in disgrace. At a stroke Sara is left a penniless orphan, and Miss Minchin’s own fortune disappears. She decides, rather than put Sara out on the street, to make her a serving girl, sell all her things, and house her in a dark attic room. Sara does not believe what she has been told, and is determined to find out the truth.

Act II

Lottie visits Sara in her new room just before the Christmas holiday. She is shocked by the drab, cold attic. Sara comforts her by describing it as a new, exciting place full of unexpected magic, though once Lottie leaves the depressing reality of it returns.

Downstairs the schoolgirls are dressed in their best, ready for a holiday. It is almost Christmas, and all they can think of are the presents awaiting them at home. Sara is sent out on a cold Christmas Eve to buy a goose for Miss Minchin. She hurries past the happy last-minute shoppers, wondering where her father might be. She imagines she hears Pasko, a friend from St. Louis.

That she does find a goose, and at the last minute, is quite impressive to Miss Amelia. She suggests sharing the holiday meal with Sara, who angers Miss Minchin. Miss Amelia resolves to leave the school and find a way to have Sara released; she tells the child how she and her sister once played at being virtuous little princesses too. Miss Amelia leaves. Miss Minchin sends Sara to her room, but mourns her hollow victory over the girl. She locks Sara and Becky in the attic for the night.

Sara is disconsolate. Becky tries to use Sara's doll to invoke the magic of the imagination, to comfort Sara the way she has been comforted herself; nothing happens. Sara goes to sleep while Becky mourns the powerlessness of the broken doll.

The two girls sleep. Pasko sneaks in through the window, bringing food, fire-wood and blankets to the girls. While he does so Sara and Becky dream of fantasy Africans bearing more exotic objects and luxuries, and of Captain Crewe becoming a hero by reaching his destination. Becky and Sara awake from the dream smelling the breakfast Pasko has left them. They are startled to see him. Becky screams. Miss Minchin comes up to investigate. Pasko promises things will get better as he and Sara escape over the rooftops. Becky, afraid of heights, stays behind, but promises to meet them later.

When Becky doesn't show up at the appointed meeting place, Sara and Pasko return to the school for her. But Becky has managed to escape the school. Miss Minchin seizes Sara and determines to have her and Pasko arrested. Becky arrives with the highest authority in the land, Queen Victoria, whom she has waylaid and regaled with stories of the cruel headmistress. It is Minchin who is arrested. Victoria acknowledges, just before Sara returns to Africa, that anyone can be a princess, if their hearts are open and their actions true.

Musical Numbers

  1. Good Luck, Bonne Chance
  2. Soon, My Love
  3. Live Out Loud
  4. Let Your Heart Be Your Compass
  5. Isn’t That Always the Way
  6. Lucky
  7. Soldier On
  8. Another World
  9. Almost Christmas
  10. Once Upon A Time
  11. Lucky Reprise
  12. Broken Old Doll
  13. Timbuktu
  14. Soon
  15. Finale



bass acoustic bass, electric bass
drums - African hand drum, cabasa, crotales, drum kit, electronic drum pad, finger cymbals, log drum, small cow bell, tam-tam, temple blocks, triangle, 4 wood blocks
keyboard 1
keyboard 2
percussion - African hand drums, afuche, bells, bongos, crotale board, dem bek, djembe, electronic drum pad, field drum, glockenspiel, marimba, mark bells, mark tree, orchestra bells, shaker, slapstick, sleigh bells, small triangle, suspended cymbal, tam-tam, temple blocks, timpani, triangle, tubular bells, tumba, xylophone
reed 1 -  alto saxophone, clarinet, ethnic flute, flute, piccolo
reed 2  - clarinet, English horn (opt.), flute, oboe (optional), tenor saxophone
reed 3 -  baritone saxophone, bass clarinet, bassoon (optional), clarinet
trumpet flugelhorn, trumpet