New stars shine in ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’

The Tacoma Childrenâ??s Musical Theater (TCMT), a Tacoma Musical Playhouse production, brings to its Sixth Avenue stage Hans Christian Andersonâ??s classic tale â??The Emperorâ??s New Clothes.â??

In this TCMT version of the tale the Emperor Marcus III (Zane Clark) is a boy who has just been crowned emperor and thinks that he needs splendid clothes in order to appear imperial and make decisions.

In the young emperorâ??s court, however, there is a scrub boy named Arno (Peter Gernon) who is unafraid of the emperorâ??s position and has a habit of blurting out the truth.

Along comes a â??Swindlerâ?? (Lex Gernon) who convinces everyone that he can weave the most marvelous clothes - garments that are invisible to fools, liars and to â??anyone you should fire.â??

The parts of William, the imperial adviser, and Deena, the royal clothes-maker, are ably played by Drew Baker and Nan Gillis respectively.

The two stars of the show, however, are Clark as Emperor Marcus and Peter Gernon as Arno, the truth telling boy-with-mop. They are a precocious pair of 12-year-olds.

As young Emperor Marcus, Clark plays his role with a heartfelt earnestness. His voice is sweet and lilting.

Gernon, who recently starred as Jojo in Lakewood Playhouseâ??s â??Seussical,â?? portrays Arno with exuberant good humor.

Together the pair performs a number of duets such as the vibrant â??Only a Guy Like Youâ?? in which the boy emperor begins to appreciate the insight of his lowly scrub boy. It is the dynamic between these two characters that is made the centerpiece of the Anderson tale. In the end, the young emperor comes to understand that the seeming lowliness of Arno is as illusory as the invisible clothes that he has been tricked into wearing. Arno is as valuable as the clothes are worthless.

Musical Director Debbie Hushagen (whose husband, Jim Hushagen, plays the role of Hans Christian Anderson at the start of the musical play) has a steady hand at the piano and unerringly pilots the show through its one-hour course. She is accompanied by Katie Peters, who is equipped with an interesting set of percussion instruments that create many musical sound effects that enrich the overall atmosphere of Andersonâ??s fairy tale world.

Stage sets consist of four towering blocks with different scenery painted on each side. These are frequently rotated in order to create various settings. The frequent changes help to create interest and keep the musical play moving along. The tall set pieces, however, seem somewhat reluctant to turn on their wheels and the stage-darkened set-changes become awkward interruptions to the overall flow of the tale. For the many children in the audience, though, the visible set-changing process is apt to be as fascinating as any other part of the performance.

Overall, TCMTâ??s production of â??The Emperorâ??s New Clothesâ?? bounces delightfully along, propelled by the nascent talents of Clark and Gernon. The show runs through June 17 with performances at 2 p.m. June 16 and 17. For further information, visit www.tmp.org or call (253) 565-6867.

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