Audiences and other critics expressed similar sentiments. And PlayMakers, the professional theatre company in residence at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, will indeed bring back the hit production for the holidays, Nov. 26 through Dec. 14, inviting people of all ages to enjoy the magical tale.

The play, suitable for ages 5 and older, is based on the 1943 novella by Antoine de Saint Exupéry, in which a disenchanted aviator crashes his plane in the Sahara Desert. There he is surprised to meet an ethereal visitor from a faraway star. Through the startling insights shared by this charming Little Prince, the aviator is reminded of what truly matters in life.

During last year’s sold-out run, The News & Observer of Raleigh said the show had “spectacular technical effects, vivid directorial concept” and “stunning visuals … with tons of real sand piled into dunes that stretch toward a vast horizon.”

Special events for “The Little Prince” this year will include a sneak peek at the set with director Tom Quaintance, free to the public at noon Nov. 19; free post-show discussions on Dec. 3 and 7; and an all-access performance for those with special needs on Dec. 9.

Shows will be at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays (except on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 27), 2 p.m. Sundays and 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 6.

All events and performances will be in the Paul Green Theatre in UNC’s Center for Dramatic Art on Country Club Road.

Tickets for Tuesdays through Thursdays are $25 for adults and $15 for children under 12; for Fridays through Sundays, tickets are $30 for adults and $15 for children. Tickets may be purchased by phone at (919) 962-PLAY, online at www.playmakersrep.org or at the Paul Green Theatre Box Office, open from noon to 6 p.m. weekdays and two hours before each performance.

Tom Quaintance, who created last year’s acclaimed production, returns to direct. He also directed sold-out productions of “The Music Man” and “Oliver!” for the Summer Youth Conservatories, presented in a partnership of PlayMakers and The ArtsCenter in Carrboro in 2007 and 2008.
Quaintance founded FreightTrain Shakespeare in Los Angeles and has worked on Broadway-bound productions including “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” with Matthew Broderick.

“‘The Little Prince’ is a fantastic journey through the stars for children of all ages,” said Quaintance. “It’s a map for adults to rediscover their childhood.”

“I am thrilled to be returning for this reprise of ‘The Little Prince,’” he said. “The story has such depth; it’s a joy to get back into that world and dig even deeper into the relationships that make it such a resonant fable for our times. It’s rejuvenating to remember the words of the Fox to the Little Prince, ‘It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.’”

Saint Exupéry’s book has been translated into more than 160 languages and sold more than 50 million copies worldwide. Theater composer and author Rick Cummins and playwright John Scoullar adapted the book as a stage play in 2000.

Along with an ensemble cast, “The Little Prince” will feature new PlayMakers’ company member Scott Ripley as the aviator. Ripley played the title role in Shakespeare’s “Pericles,” which opened PlayMakers’ 2008-2009 main-stage season to critical acclaim. He also is an assistant professor in UNC’s dramatic art department and teaches in its professional actor training program.

Ripley has numerous credits in film, television and onstage, the latter at La Jolla Playhouse (Calif.), American Conservatory Theater (San Francisco), Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park and American Repertory Theatre (Cambridge, Mass.). Previously he graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and was a bombardier/navigator aboard the USS Nimitz and USS Theodore Roosevelt.

Reunited from last season, the production team is McKay Coble, chair of UNC’s department of dramatic art (sets/costumes), Justin Townsend (lighting) and Michel Marrano (sound), with original music composed for the show by Matthew Murphy.

For more information on the 2008-2009 season, visit www.playmakersrep.org.

Coverage note: Media are welcome to cover the set and play preview with director Tom Quaintance at noon Nov. 19 in the Paul Green Theatre. Photography, videography, lights and flashes are not restricted. Call (919) 428-1744 for more information.

PlayMakers contact: Connie Mahan, (919) 428-1744, cmahan@email.unc.edu