Meet the French author whose ‘Little Prince’ songs will grace Broadway

Closer to the centuries since his creation than its current star, the “Little Prince” was the first story on which to share lyrics of the iconic traditional song.

When French aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1838-1940) proposed to his mistress with the seed of his dead parents, he peppered the baby flowerchild he christened Little Prince with eccentric, illuminating anecdotes about animals, nature and poetic myths.

He then took his child with him to the sandy plains of Africa for a mission to save science and nature from those who would harm them with an “educational” program of “insect-training”.

Turning to begin his aeroplane mission, from which he failed when it capsized upon landing on the Peyote, Little Prince floated through the clouds with a blue butterfly on his wrist, observing the minor, baroque vernacular of local flora and fauna, its diversity of colours and sounds, its unpredictable contours and its unpredictability of its other occupants.

The short story appears in the widely read “Tropic of Cancer”, in which its themes and message were painstakingly distilled into lyrics by Emmanuel Lachoup, which evolved into a pop song of unmistakable élan (and, naturally, became a hit in France). In the “Little Prince” book, which still plagues younger generations with its star-crossed romance with St. Exupéry, the song is a lively, delicate, never-inevitable salute to the unfailing primacy of mind over matter, persistence over its whims.

The full “Little Prince” musical, co-written by Joseph Robinette and Doug Wright, will, according to various reports, include a large variety of dance and acrobatics. Wright, a New York veteran, has Broadway credits from “I Am My Own Wife” to “Golden Boy”. Robinette, the book’s author, was in residency at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York under the title “Finding a Fine Balance”.

“The Little Prince” begins previews on Broadway next March and will arrive at the Lyceum Theatre with a $56 million price tag in February of 2020.

The deal between the producers and the author was for royalties not ownership, Robinette said on Thursday.

“These are his words. These are his ideas. You might think they would be in his voice. In the end we decided not to own that,” Robinette said.

Saint-Exupéry’s estate has been mostly stonewalled by producers who tried (and failed) to get a piece of the profits.

In 2006, a deluxe DVD reissue of the short story and music, dubbed the “Little Prince on Screen”, was released in the US, but it could not move beyond niche distribution. Robinette said they decided instead to focus on the story and music, and employed Saint-Exupéry’s old lady, Sadie Dupuis, to help craft the lyrics.

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