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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Fairy-tale Antics

Theater Reviews

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In a sweet and simply told production of Sleeping Beauty, First Stage Children’s Theater offers a treat for the younger set. The script by Charles Way differs substantially from the Disney animated version, but it still tells the basic story of a sleeping princess who must be awakened by love’s first kiss.

Consideration for younger children’s sensibilities takes center stage. The evil witch is not too scary; likewise, a large, hairy spider stays sufficiently upstage not to frighten the youngest audience members. Adults will appreciate the many themes that run through the play, including the benefits of a lifetime friendship and the prince’s growing faith in his own abilities.

The kids, however, will best enjoy the swordplay, dancing (especially by the troupe of fairies) and a pillow fight between the adult royals. All the adult members of the cast are excellent. The funniest lines of dialogue belong to a half-man, half-dragon named Gryff. Actor Benjamin Reigel shows his many comic gifts as the unhappy Gryff, who wants nothing more than to become a real, fire-breathing dragon (not to worry, the transformation takes place off-stage). First Stage shows are double-cast, and this performance featured the Briar cast. Two brothers (Henry and Nick Ballesteros) were cast as the younger and older versions of the prince. Their physical resemblance produces a seamless transition.

As the young princess (a.k.a., Sleeping Beauty), Lydia Hartlaub is both feisty and sweet. The teenage version (Olivia Stemwell) is a charming, long-haired ingnue. A woodsy setting and magical costumes complete this engaging fairytale.

Sleeping Beauty runs through March 22 at the Todd Wehr Theater in the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts.
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