Jakarta. The latest stage adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupery's famous novella "The Little Prince" brings out the more cheerful side of the story that has touched millions of readers of all ages.
Rumah Karya Sjuman, helmed by musician and entrepreneur Aksan Sjuman, staged a ballet performance based on book at the Jakarta Theater in Taman Ismail Marzuki, Central Jakarta, on Saturday (09/12) and Sunday. The performers — dancers and musicians — came from Ballet Sumber Cipta and Fantasia Ensemble, both affiliated with Rumah Karya.
Two years ago, Rumah Karya staged "The Nutcracker in Jazz," an adaptation of Tchaikovsky's most popular work, which is regarded as standard repertoire for ballet schools.
"The Little Prince" has been turned into movies and performances all over the world, but it is quite rare that it enters the Indonesian performing arts scene.
Aksan, as the ballet's director, scriptwriter and music composer, said on Friday that the inspiration came to him early this year, after he watched the book's 2015 animated movie adaptation by Mark Osborne.
In August, when the music was ready, Aksan, co-composer Mery Kasiman and choreographers Sekararum Nirmala and Arya Yudistira Sjuman started to compose the steps and dances for the piece.
Since Aksan wanted his adaptation to be enjoyable for both kids and adults, he made it more cheerful than the book itself.
"We transformed the lyrical book into something that can be enjoyed by kids. Parents also won't have to explain the scenes to them," he said.
The book is full of profound dialogues between the Little Prince and the Aviator, but they are omitted in the performance, which focuses more on the prince's adventures and encounters with new people and creatures.
For example, the book's original Lamplighter is an adult trapped in a tedious job, but in the ballet he is just a person whose routine is disrupted by the prince, as they play together and light the lamps.
The main hero is a child — here the performance is faithful to the book. Aksan was so impressed by the acting talent of Marco Eldiardo, a 10-year-old boy from Yogyakarta who has no background in ballet, that he offered him the titular role.
Also the king was replaced by a queen. Ballet teacher Weni Halim was cast to play the proud monarch who needs to show her power to the prince.
"There are few male ballet dancers in Indonesia. It was difficult to find someone to play the king, so the choreographers asked me instead," Weni said.
Dance, music and video effects in the background make "The Little Prince" appeal to an audience of all ages. Without diminishing the deeply philosophical dimension of the book, the performance conveys joy and will encourage the youngest to seek the original story sometime later.