'Sleep' is not the key word

Tacoma Little Theatre staging of “Sleeping Beauty” is solid

By Steve Dunkelberger on November 15, 2007

I have to be brutally honest here for a minute. I didn’t have high hopes for

Tacoma Little Theatre’s production of “Sleeping Beauty.” I just didn’t.



But I played the role of the dutiful father and took my daughter to see the show so I would have something to write about.



Apparently, leaving this column space blank under the guise of “creative white space” or just Xs would not constitute enough effort to warrant a paycheck. Go figure.



So I dragged myself to the show. My head was filled with flashbacks of the theater’s most recent period piece, “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” Images of dancing fairies to tunes played out on a Yamaha keyboard from that show caused major bouts of PTSD. So, needless to say, my expectations were low.



The show had a lot working against it in my mind. It was an “adaptation” of a well-known story. It was a kid’s show. It was a musical. It had bad mojo from previous works on that stage of a similar ilk. And I was tired from an already hectic week.



But I have to say, it didn’t suck. It actually was anti-suck. It just made me think more about all of the faults of last season’s tale of knights and sorcery. This show overcame most of that show’s troubles.



But first, here is the skinny on the show.



This version of “Sleeping Beauty” was written by Charles Way, and Way’s version maintains most of the storyline that everyone would recognize. There’s a curse. There’s a spindle.



There’s a deep sleep and a charming prince out to rescue the narcoleptic royalty. But there is also Gryff — as in half of Griffin. Gryff is a half-man, half-dragon who is the sidekick of the good witch.



And there is a riddle-challenging Spider King, who challenges the prince about his dedication to his friends.



Way’s script tells the story of Branwen and Modron, two sister witches, who find an abandoned babe in the woods. The babe is named Briar Rose and is ultimately given to the childless king and queen of the realm. The rest of the play follows the main story we all know and love.



What first raised my expectations of this show not completely blowing chunks was that the costumes were more extensive than TLT’s usual fare. That’s because many of the costumes appearing in this production came straight from Seattle Children’s Theatre’s West Coast premiere of the same show.



The blocking was much more fluid and natural, courtesy of the übertalented Charlotte Tiencken.



And the caliber of acting clearly showed the theater brought out some big guns.



Tops on that list were Amanda Eldredge as the mean but melodic bad witch, Modron, and Penny Clapp as her good witch sister, Branwen.



John Kelly portrayed the most multidimensional dragon to take to the TLT stage so far this century.



What made the show stumble a bit was one particular scene where the prince has a dance contest with some fairies. It just didn’t work. It screamed “community theater’s youth program graduates” and bogged down the pace of the show. No one outside of the parents and relatives of the actors in that scene would say it was worth keeping in the show.



But overall, the play survived this misstep and proved to be worth leaving my couch to see.



[Tacoma Little Theatre, through Dec. 2, 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, $18-$22, 210 N. I St., Tacoma, 253.272.2281, www.tacomalittletheatre.com]