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THEATER REVIEWS : Waking Up an Old 'Beauty' : This Comical Version of the Classic Fairy Tale Is Absolutely Summery

August 05, 1993|ROBERT KOEHLER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

MISSION VIEJO — If the Prince Street Players production of Jim Eiler and Jeanne Bargy's musical version of "Sleeping Beauty" proves anything, it's that kids aren't so taken with hearts and flowers, but they sure like the bad guy.

Or, in this case, the bad gal.

Except that one Edward Snyder is playing Trollarina, the nasty fairy who casts the spell of 100 years of sleep on Princess Melisande (Monica Ruyle) out of revenge for not being invited to her christening party. Snyder, of course, is a guy himself, which begins to tell you what kind of "Sleeping Beauty," at Saddleback College's art gallery, this is.

Not campy exactly, but comical and absolutely summery--from Wally Huntoon's set of pedestals bedecked in garlands and flowers to an Eiler-Bargy score that is more complex than the sing-along quality of many kids' shows, but very friendly at the same time (and kept to a quiet pitch by keyboardist Melissa Hardy under Diane King Vann's musical direction).

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If the kids (asked to sit on mats in the middle of the action, while parents sit on chairs on the periphery) know only the Disney "Sleeping Beauty," they'll be in for surprises with Eiler's adaptation. In some ways closer than the movie to Charles Perrault's 17th-Century fairy tale, "La Belle au Bois Dormant," this version's princess grows up in the king and queen's court until the spell hits at her 16th birthday and daily plays with a fawn who is actually the handsome prince also under Trollarina's spell (Kris Kelly).

The biggest surprise will be Snyder's Trollarina, a clownish, wisecracking nuisance who's much more cuddly than the demon-witch-dragon of the Disney film.

She/he is also the life force of this show.

The kids in Saturday's audience told it all. Not too charmed by the three nice fairies (Danielle Gish, Heather Tobey and Brandie Barrows), and visibly bored by the slow goings-on of the court, they were startled awake by Snyder's rambunctious naughtiness. Tossing his long manes around like an egocentric lord, creeping around the gallery space like a wily forest creature, then belting out a song like a spoofed-up Ethel Merman, Snyder suggests the way Disney might do "Sleeping Beauty" now .

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Some of the other casting, under Joe Lauderdale's direction, needs some rethinking.

It's nice to see the princess depicted as someone who's not blond and leggy, but Ruyle's voice turns her songs into something less than beautiful. Kelly's fawn-prince is not the handsome fellow to sweep you off your feet, and Lori Howard's queen and Shane Schmedeke's king appear asleep before they're put to sleep by Trollarina. Despite the kids' reaction, these three good fairies are cute guides for us through this tale.

Purists might object to letting a wild comic run away with the fairy tale that virtually invented the phrase love conquers all , but this is the kind of theatrical spark that might get kids to read Perrault's story. Besides, as long as "Sleeping Beauty" is kept out of cinemas and video stores by Disney (an embargo which is "indefinite," according to a Disney spokesperson), shows like the one at Saddleback will be the next best thing. Maybe better.

* "Sleeping Beauty," Saddleback College Art Gallery, 28000 Marguerite Parkway, Mission Viejo. Thursdays-Saturdays, 10 a.m. and noon. Ends Sunday. $5. (714) 582-4656. Running time: 1 hour, 10 minutes.

Kris Kelly: Fawn

Danielle Gish: Phoebe

Heather Tobey: Sybil

Brandie Barrows: Minerva

Joshua Lander: Herald

Lori Howard: Queen

Shane Schmedeke: King

Edward Snyder: Trollarina

Monica Ruyle: Princess Melisande

A Prince Street Players production. Adaptation, book and lyrics by Jim Eiler. Music by Eiler and Jeanne Bargy. Directed by Joe Lauderdale. Music directed by Diane King Vann. Set: Wally Huntoon. Lights: Kevin Cook. Costumes/Makeup: Charles Castagno. Production stage manager: Terry Christopher.

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