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African music, dance the backdrop for ‘Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters’

'Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters' is bill Paramount Arts Center April 4.

"Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters" is on the bill at the Paramount Arts Center April 4.

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♦ 9:30 a.m. and noon, April 4

♦ Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd., Aurora

♦ Tickets, $8

♦ (630) 896-6666;

Updated: March 28, 2012 6:49PM

Robyn Flatt, the director for the Dallas Children’s Theater touring production of “Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters,” knows that presenting a message in the piece is as important as presenting an entertaining piece of theater.

“It all goes together,” said Flatt of the balance of message and entertainment. “The African dancing is so powerful and energizing. The music written for the play is dynamite. It all gives us a vehicle to drive the energy of the piece in a memorable way.”

“Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters” will be presented on April 4 at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora. In the play, a messenger brings word that an African king has invited the most worthy and beautiful young women in the land to appear before him so he might choose a queen. Mufaro’s two daughters — with very different dispositions — plan to travel a half-day’s journey through a mystical jungle and across a deep river to be presented to the king. But one of his daughters, believing herself better and prettier than her sister, sets out alone so that she can be presented to the king first. Through narration, African dance, drumming and songs, the play depicts situations that test the girls’ courage, kindness and strength of spirit.

“The play tries to find which daughter is truly beautiful,” said Flatt, who is also the executive artistic director of Dallas Children’s Theater. “One daughter is selfish and has no concern for other people. The other daughter will give her last crumb of bread to someone if they need it, and she has concern for the environment. We find that she is really the one who has the beauty.”

“Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters” is a play inspired by John Steptoe’s Caldecott Award-winning Cinderella tale by the same name, which was published in 1987. Steptoe based his story on a folktale from Zimbabwe, collected by G. M. Theal, and depicted in Theal’s 1895 book “Kaffir Folktales.” The play is adapted for the stage by Karen Abbott, with music and lyrics by S-Ankh Rasa.

According to the Dallas Children’s Theater, Steptoe hoped that his books would help all young people to take pride in who they are.

“It is a Zimbabwe Cinderella story, in a way,” Flatt said of the play’s appeal. “This wonderful folktale celebrates virtue and kindness of the heart.

“It shows how important it is to have reverence for the environment, for your father and respect for people in your life.”

Randall G. Mielke is a local free-lance writer.

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