I have a confession to make: I made it to thirty-nine years old, never having read The Little Prince. I knew of it, of course, that it was a mind-bending children’s classic and emotional philosophical journey, and I purchased a copy with the intent to read it…12 years ago. This slim novella traveled from Tennessee to Louisiana to Illinois and I never cracked it open. It was a matter of missed opportunities: I felt like I should read it, but that I should have already read it when I was much younger, so I was hesitant to pick it up. Would it make sense? Would it resonate? I needed a catalyst to force the issue. Enter a fortuitous chance to see the Broadway show, still in previews, and the die was cast. I certainly couldn’t see the show having NOT read the book! So I packed the wee book in my backpack, carried it in my pocket as I walked the streets of New York, and finished reading it hours before the show.
This book was a powerhouse of fantasy and mythology, about a tiny boy who lives on a planet not much bigger than a house, traveling the galaxy to find belonging. His story is told by the aviator, who he meets on Earth in the desert after the aviator’s plane crashes. If you’re like, “wait, what?” You’re not alone, because on the surface this book is surreal to the point of confusing. But this book is less about the action of what is happening, and more about the imagery and its impressive reliability 79 years after it was first written. Before he gets to earth, the boy visits many other strange planets that each has one grown-up on them, who are unable to connect with the prince as they are preoccupied with their own priorities (alcohol, amassing wealth, earning praise) which illustrates many of the things that distract us from forming and maintaining real bonds with those around us. It is 116 pages that will take you on a haunting emotional roller coaster.
As for the show itself, it was a magical aerial acrobat meets dance meets spoken word experience. They managed to perfectly capture the narrative thread of a book by having a narrator who was the only speaking character: the prince, aviator, and other characters all solely communicate via dance and motion. Mostly in English, but some in the original French, you could also read along on monitors that were facing the audience, giving another nod to the source material of the written word. I didn’t know what to expect but after five minutes, I sat in rapt silence. It was a stunning experience, and unlike any play or musical, I have ever seen.
Do I recommend the show? Absolutely. Do I recommend the book? Even more absolutely. If you have never read it, don’t be like me, dive on in! And if you have read it, you’re probably due for a reread of this tiny impactful story.