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Effectively Twee

Handmade feel and scrappy charms characterized many of this year’s memorable productions—yet the cuteness didn’t leave behind a cloying aftertaste. How they pulled off their balancing acts.


The Show:
Once

Twee Signifiers:
Indie-film provenance; offbeat love story between melancholy busker and quirky pixie; heart-tugging folk-rock score; stylized movements subbing for full-on choreography.

Why It Worked Anyway:
Two captivating leads, a cast that did double duty as orchestra (and did it well), and the nifty working pub on the set.



The Show:
Peter and the Starcatcher

Twee Signifiers:
Young-adult fantasy-novel provenance; thrift-store-meets-steampunk costumes; household items used as set pieces; a singing mermaid chorus; Victorian-music-hall-style stage with antique footlights.

Why It Worked Anyway:
A cast clearly having even more fun than the audience; the script’s infectiously gleeful optimism; and the genuinely imagination-sparking sight of characters flying without fancy harnesses.



The Show:
The Old Man and the Old Moon

Twee Signifiers:
Inspired by old fables; Mumford & Sons–y songs with lots of banjo; old-timey costume pieces like vests and bowler hats; shadow-puppetry; set made of crates, old furniture, and burlap sacks.

Why It Worked Anyway:
The seriously talented seven-person ensemble of writer-performer-musicians, the outsize charm of a zippy tall tale that appeals to all ages, and inventive storytelling despite the slight plot.



The Show:
Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812

Twee Signifiers:
Russian-literature provenance; electro-pop chamber-opera musical numbers; atmospheric supper-club environment in which old paintings and mirrors adorned the walls.

Why It Worked Anyway:
Self-referential and self-deprecating numbers that cut the quaintness; the surprisingly successful pairing of Tolstoy’s characters with pop songs; vodka and dumplings at every table.


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