NWU to Premiere 'Pharaoh's New Robes'
By Jeff Korbelik
Friday, Feb 27, 2009

As if directing his first show on Nebraska Wesleyan University’s mainstage wasn’t scary enough, senior Brett Langenberg also had to deal with a playwright.

And not just any playwright.

April-Dawn Gladu’s resume includes working for Walt Disney Entertainment as a writer and director and, most recently, as an Associate Artist for the Orlando Shakespeare Theatre.

NWU Theatre will premiere Gladu’s new children’s musical, “The Pharaoh’s New Robes,” which begins a four-day, five-performance run Thursday in McDonald Theatre.

Gladu flew in from Chicago to attend several NWU Theatre rehearsals.

“I don’t think there’s anything more intimidating than having the person who wrote the show watching you do something,” Langenberg said. He is directing the musical for his senior project. He has directed three other shows at NWU, but all three were in the black box Miller Theatre with smaller casts. “Robes” has 27 students in it.

“You start to second- guess everything,” Langenberg said. “(Gladu) told me I was doing a nice job and made me feel reassured with everything that went on. That was nice.”

The production will be the first of “Robes,” which has had a reading and been workshopped elsewhere.

NWU Theatre approached Gladu about her new musical after the success it enjoyed staging her adaptation of “The Jungle Book” in 2008.

“I was honored they decided to do it,” Gladu said in a phone interview. “Everybody is giving so much energy to it. The kids are passionate and have been throwing all their ideas and creativity into it.”

Based on Hans Christian Andersen’s children’s story “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” “Robes” tells the story of a clumsy but clever Egyptian princess, Hatshepsut, who suffers under her perfectionist father, the Pharaoh. The Pharaoh has promised to give any one thing to anyone who can weave a robe so perfect that only truly perfect people can see it. An unknown weaver, who actually is Hatshepsut’s uncle in disguise, plans to trick the Pharaoh and demand his kingdom as his prize. The princess is faced with the challenge of saving both her kingdom and her family.

Gladu came up with the idea after seeing a documentary about Hatshepsut, an actual person who was the fifth pharaoh of the 18th dynasty of Ancient Egypt, reigning from 1479 to 1458 BC.

“I wondered what that person would be like and let my imagination play,” said Gladu, who turned Hatshepsut into a “likable, approachable 12-year-old girl.”

The musical runs one hour with no intermission and includes about half a dozen songs. Langenberg called it more complex than it seems on the surface.

“The first time I read it, I didn’t catch everything,” he said.

In it, Gladu addresses family, perfection and societal expectations, he said.

“There are a lot of things going on,” Langenberg said. “It’s teaching lessons to kids without being moralistic.

By Elizabeth Maupin
February 2003

There's another musical in the making in The Pharaoh's New Robes, April-Dawn Gladu's recasting of the Hans Christian Andersen story in ancient Egypt. Gladu has the makings of a child-pleaser with her funny little musical, in which a child is told not to judge a mummy by its pyramid and a scolding mother tells her daughter, "Don't answer me when I'm asking you a question."

The characters in this show are entertaining, from the perfectionist Pharaoh to the obnoxious young prince to the princess' all-knowing cat. (Cats are like that, especially in Egypt.)