Four-time Barrymore Award winner Mary Martello and 1812 Productions are pulling back the curtain on what happens to beloved fairy-tale characters when the fairy tale is over with “Happily Ever After. ”
The musical comedy, which is definitely not for children, peers into the untold lives of childhood heroines who kissed Prince Charming, escaped wicked stepmothers and changed beasts into beaus.
This production is Martello’s first solo show, despite that she’s spent more than 50 years in the theater and worked with almost every major theater company in the city.
“I’ve done cabaret before and I’ve written some very basic patter to connect the songs, but it’s certainly never been a production,” she said. “So this is my first.”
Also serving as Martello’s writing debut, “Happily Ever After” tells and sings her takes on the stories behind stories such as “Beauty and the Beast,” “Cinderella” and “Sleeping Beauty.”
“I wanted to look at it from a variety of ways,” she said. “I’d say that the first act is more your princesses. The second act is looking at the fairy story and the idea of happily ever after and what happens. The whole thing is a little bit skewed.”
Skewed is right. The second act features Hansel and Gretel, the Evil Queen and Peter Pan, who ends up stuck in our world as a drag queen.
“I thought, what would happen had Peter come back with the Lost Boys to bring them to the Darlings and gotten stuck here? So it kind of took off from there. He ends up here in the world. He can’t take it at the Darlings’. That’s not what he wants. It’s a structured home. So he takes off hoping to find Tinkerbell. You can imagine what happens to a beautiful young boy wandering the city streets in a pair of green tights looking for fairy dust.”
When asked if she had a favorite fairy-tale character in this production, Martello, much like a mother with many children, didn’t want to single one out.
“I can’t answer that yet. I don’t really have it on its feet yet. I dearly love them all. In the process of rehearsal, as I got into each character, only that character exists for me. Then when I go into the other characters, I sort of forget about the other characters until I’m fully enjoying each one as I inhabit it.”
For Martello, who is a grandmother, the show is a way of poking fun at and addressing the princess image that’s marketed to young women.
“I like the idea of taking a realistic, funny, screwy look at the years between ‘and they lived happily ever after’ and senility,” she said. “I think there are some poignant moments within it and some wry commentary, but I hate to think that it’s cynical.”
“Happily Ever After” runs through March 28 at Adrienne Theatre, 2030 Sansom St. For more information, visit www.1812productions.org or call (215) 592-9560.