Friday, December 11, 2015

Theater Review: Sleeping Beauty at Centerstage

Katherine Jett and friends as Carabosse and her ghouls. Photo by Michelle Smith Lewis

Published in The News Tribune, Dec. 11. 2015

Katherine Jett and friends as Carabosse and her ghouls. Photo by Michelle Smith Lewis
Centerstage in Federal Way continues its holiday tradition of presenting a traditional English Panto. This time it is Sleeping Beauty again. They did it in 2010. Repetition is part of the Panto tradition – same fractured fairy tales, same Vaudeville style humor, but updated with variations.
For those who don’t know, Pantos are farcical fairy tales for children and adults with bawdy jokes that, presumably only the adults get, new lyrics to pop tunes, tons of local references and audience participation. Kids love the wild costumes and sets and props, and are usually ecstatic about the larger-than-life puppets; this year a giant but not frightening dragon built by Steffon Moody and operated from inside by Assistant Stage Manager Kira Zink.
Princess Aurora (Sarah Mather) a.k.a. Sleeping Beauty. Photo by Michelle Smith Lewis
Traditionally there is an ugly “Dame” played by a male actor in drag, and a tall and beautiful woman playing “the boy,” a swashbuckling hero. In 2010 the boy was Prince Michael of Normandy Park played by Hilary Heinz, who also played Prince Charming in Centerstage’s Cinderella. This year it’s a man for a change, Cooper Harris-Turner as Prince Peter of Puyallup.
And the dame, played almost every year by Roger Curtis, is Nurse Nellie, played by Centerstage Artistic Director Alan Bryce. The only other actor returning for this one is Dale Bowers reprising his role as the king.
The bawdiness has been toned down a bit this year, perhaps in an attempt to appeal more to children, but in every other respect it is the same old tried-and-true insanity including groaner puns, and as a bonus, many good-hearted digs at that other well-liked local theater, Tacoma Musical Playhouse.
Sarah Henley Hicks is fabulous as the good fairy Moonbeam who narrates much of the story and uses her magic to counteract the bad magic of the evil fairy Carabosse (Katherine Jett). Both of these actors give it their all and are lovable, or in Jett’s case lovably evil, and they both sing beautifully.
Bowers is bumbling and likable as the king, and Harris-Turner plays good Prince Peter of Puyallup as strong and dependable. He also sings nicely, but I wish his voice was a little bit stronger.
Josh Williamson is marvelous as Jangles, the clown of Hamalot – yes, the name of the kingdom is indeed Hamalot. Jangles adores his best friend Princess Aurora (Sarah Mather) a.k.a. Sleeping Beauty, and is willing to do anything in his power to save her from the evil Carabosse. Williamson’s acting is a comedic treasure, and he dances with a natural style and grace that is a pleasure to watch.
Mather is a young actor, the same age as her character, Princess Aurora, who celebrates her 18th birthday in Act One. Despite her youth, Mather has already built an impressive acting resume with performances in Carousel and Spamalot at the 5th Avenue Theater in Seattle. As Mather plays her, Princess Aurora is sweet, delicate and innocent.
Bryce proves to be an audience favorite as the outrageously flirtatious Nurse Nellie. In every performance he picks some (lucky?) man in the audience to flirt with, which provides quite a few of the many comic delights in Sleeping Beauty.
The audience participation reaches a delightful climax near the end when children from the audience are invited on stage to help perform a song about a bird with the longest name in the history of ornithology, and finally when the cast throws handfuls of candy to the audience.
The music provided by Musical Director and Arranger Deborah Lynn Armstrong is rocking and raucous, with recognizable hit tunes reconfigured to apply to the story and filled with funny local references.
It is a long play, just short of three hours including intermission. Some scenes could have been shortened for the sake of the adults in the audience, but it is so much fun for the children that I would hate to see anything cut.

Check Alec’s blog at for reviews of other area theatrical productions.

WHAT: Sleeping Beauty
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, through Dec. 20
WHERE: Centerstage at Knutzen Family Theatre, 3200 SW Dash Point Road, Federal Way
TICKETS: Adults: $30, Seniors (65+) and Military: $25; Youth (25 & Under): $10; VIP: $50

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