Reading/Interest Level: Primary, Intermediate
Author: John Fearnley, Beverly Cross, and Tommy Steele; Music and Lyrics by Frank Loesser
Publisher: Music Theatre International
Acts or Scenes: 2 Acts
Estimated Runtime: 90 minutes
Number of Characters: 42
Cast Requirements: 5 male, 2 female, 14+ either
Time Period: 1830s
Production Requirements: Multiple set locations, period costumes, orchestra or pre-recorded music
Hans’ stories are good, so good that the frustrated schoolteacher cannot teach the children when his stories, told on the playground, are the competition. Forced to leave his home in Odense, Hans travels to Copenhagen to seek his fortune, where he meets and falls in love with a beautiful ballerina. He believes her to be trapped in a cruel, unhappy marriage and writes The Little Mermaid for her. Her famous ballet company presents the play and Hans comes to an understanding that the ballerina is happy in her marriage. With the ballet production and the help of a friendly newspaper editor, Hans’ fame begins to grow. He is welcomed back with open arms to his home in Odense, where his stories are now loved and appreciated by all.
This piece of historical fiction sprinkles in true historic moments, such as Andersen’s rise to fame in Copenhagen and triumphant return to his home town of Odense. Happily, a healthy dose of his famous stories is woven into the play: a boy that is teased is treated to The Ugly Duckling, a small girl hears about Thumbelina, and the production ends with a rousing retelling of The Emperor’s New Clothes. Ballet figures largely in the production, which is a beautiful aid to the storytelling, but those production needs should be considered. Based on the 1952 film of the same name starring Danny Kaye, this script includes the same catchy songs by the beloved Frank Loesser. The story line is similar with a few changes to the play script for length and ease of production. With themes encouraging audiences to follow their dreams and with the classic stories of Hans Christian Andersen, this play will be enjoyable for both parents and children.