Since it’s Christmas (or was when this article was originally published), let’s have a family show this week. Three Fairy Godmothers, written in 1967 by the Iowa writer and television producer Jerry L. Twedt, is one of those fairy tales about a spoiled princess. You know, like the 1976 Czech movie Honza Malem Kralem, where haughty Jorga Kotrbova…
… ends up upended:
In Jerry L. Twedt’s play, the three fairy godmothers of the title – Hortense, Hepsabah and Hoplandria – have all reached the mandatory retirement age of 800 years, so their magic wands have been taken away. But they are offered one chance to get the wands back, if they can succeed in sweetening Princess Dulcie, who is notoriously ‘the meanest girl in the kingdom’. For nearly fourteen years, ever since her fifth birthday, she has led a Jekyll and Hyde life with periodic ‘mean spells’ in which she plays cruel practical jokes; as a result, the palace servants have all left.
‘You’ve got to fight it,’ King Stoutheart tells his daughter. ‘At least until you are married! After that, everyone will just think you’re a normal wife!’
On their way to the palace, the fairy godmothers meet a young soldier who shares food with them and confides that he is really Prince Royal from a neighboring kingdom, sent by his father to help King Stoutheart destroy the wicked witch Black Barabela. The only snag is the reward for success: whoever defeats the witch will receive Princess Dulcie’s hand in marriage. And that’s why Royal has come in disguise: ‘spoiled as she is, she would never marry a common soldier’, so he can fulfil his father’s wishes without the risk of lifelong marital purgatory.
There is another side to the problem. Dulcie is so horrible that all her prospective suitors have been driven away, just like the servants. But the law requires that, if the Princess is still unwed on her nineteenth birthday, she must marry the son of the kingdom’s largest landowner – and the landowner in question happens to be the witch herself, mother of the ugly, loutish Org. And, just to make things even more difficult, Dulcie will be nineteen tomorrow!
The fairy godmothers arrive at the palace with Prince Royal, now calling himself just ‘Roy’, and the King seizes the chance to solve the servant problem: the godmothers are appointed Princess Dulcie’s new ladies-in-waiting. Unfortunately for them, she has a mean spell coming on, and their welcoming gift from her turns out to be a booby-trap, much to Prince Royal’s disgust.
The second act begins with the godmothers’ first attempt to make Dulcie sweet, using a ‘Super-Univac-Sweetener-Compressor’ – but while they are arguing about how it should work, Dulcie throws a net over them and the machine is smashed. The King and the godmothers are now at the end of their tether.
KING: Isn’t there some other way you could make her sweet?
PRINCE ROYAL: Your Majesty, do I have your permission to try something?
KING: Yes! Yes! Anything!
DULCIE: What are you going to do, soldier?
PRINCE ROYAL: This!
Prince Royal grabs Dulcie, puts her over his knee and spanks her. Dulcie yells and screams. The three women clap their hands. The King looks amazed.
KING: Why didn’t I think of that?
PRINCE ROYAL: There! That will teach you to throw nets over old ladies who are trying to help you!
DULCIE: Oh! Oh! You monster! Just you wait!
KING: I don’t think you did any good.
PRINCE ROYAL: Maybe I should try again!
DULCIE: No! Don’t touch me! Papa, tell him to leave! I don’t care if he is the only young man left! I’d rather marry Org than him!
But when Org and his mother arrive, Dulcie sings a different tune: ‘I’m marrying Roy tomorrow,’ she insists, which provokes an equally insistent refusal from ‘Roy’. Still, he defeats Org in a fair fight and also disarms Barabela of her magic staff. But then Dulcie has another mean spell:
DULCIE: Spank me, will you! Well, I’ll make you good and sorry! Barabela, if I give you your staff, will you turn him into a toad?
BARABELA: Yes, dearie! Just give me the staff,
PRINCE ROYAL: If you do it, Princess, you’ll have to marry Org.
BARABELA: No, you won’t! I promise! I’ll never bother you again.
KING: Don’t believe her, Dulcie.
BARABELA: Remember that spanking!
DULCIE: Yes! It really hurt! Here! Turn him into a toad!
And with that she hands over the staff. Big mistake, obviously: Barabela doesn’t toadify Royal (she has something worse in store for him, she says), but she does abduct him and Dulcie.
The plot then works itself out. It emerges that Black Barabela visited Dulcie on her fifth birthday posing as a fairy godmother and administered a magic potion that caused the mean spells. The real fairy godmothers ineptly attempt to rescue Dulcie and Royal from Barabela’s castle. It also emerges that Org isn’t really the witch’s son, and he chases her, eager for revenge at the way she has ill-treated him. ‘Spank her, Org,’ Hortense encourages him, ‘Spank her good.’ But he chases her off the stage before doing any such thing. Now that Dulcie is cured of her mean spells, Royal agrees to marry her, and the fairy godmothers accept that they are over the hill and need to retire after all.
Three Fairy Godmothers is another play offered by the Dramatic Publishing Company, and so is mainly done by high schools and other amateur companies. A handful of those high school productions led to the publication of a spanking photo in the yearbook. The earliest is from Corvallis High School, Oregon, in 1975. The production premiered on January 26, and was double cast. One performance featured Bob Drake as Royal and Teresa Bell as Dulcie – but obviously not the same Teresa Bell we saw playing Aunt Sandra in a 1971 production of Act Your Age over in Maine! But the yearbook photograph shows Liz McKinney getting a royal spanking from Mike Musgrave:
Two years later, in 1977, the play was staged by Wilson High School, Portsmouth, Virginia:
And in relatively more recent times, Steve Pearlman spanked Karin Adaline in the 1994 production at Sterling Heights High School, Michigan:
And twenty years on from that, the play’s appeal continues to endure. The most recent production I have found – regrettably without relevant photographic documentation – was in April 2014, by the long-established community theater company, Fantasy Playhouse Children’s Theater, based in Huntsville, Alabama. Jacob Smith played Prince Royal, and Dulcie was Elyse Freeman:
It was the fourth time the company had done the play (with previous productions in the 1970-71, 1981-82 and 2000-1 seasons) – so it seems likely that, in Alabama and elsewhere, Princess Dulcie is destined to carry on getting spanked for many years to come!
For more from this play, go here.