Monday, January 30, 2017

The Tail of Sleeping Beauty—NW Children’s Theater—NW Portland

Slumbering Birdie

This original musical…with puppets, is conceived and created by Sarah Jane Hardy (NWCT’s Artistic Director) and John D. Ellingson, directed by Hardy, with music and lyrics by Reece Marshburn and Marianna Thielen.  It is playing at their space, 1819 NW Everett St., through February 26th.  (Parking can be a challenge in this area, so plan your time accordingly.)  For more information, go to their site at or call 503-222-4480.

This is a fanciful frolic of our feathered friends finding love and beauty in fowl places.  If you are a fan of Sesame Street or, on the other end of the spectrum, Avenue Q (and I am of both), then this “tail’s” for you, as it is told by puppets.  And what a marvelous creation they are (designed by Ellingson with costumes by Mary Eggers (Rochon)!  These active, avian actors tell their version of the classic story and even interact with the audience at times, much to the delight of the young ones (and I caught more than a few oldsters smiling, too).

This fairy tale should be familiar to most of us.  Once Upon a Time, in a kingdom far, far away, their lived a King (Andrés Alcalá) and Queen (Liz Hayden) who wished to celebrate the birth of their first child, a daughter, Rosa (Nelda Reyes), and so they invited the whole country (well, almost the whole land) to celebrate.  Among the guests were three Fairies.  The first one (Noelle Hughs) bestowed upon her the gift of beauty, both of body and heart.  The second one (Verónika Núñez) granted her the gift of strength.  And the third fairy (Ellingson)…but this was halted by the entrance of the decidedly, uninvited, Evil Fairy (Camille Trinka).

She had had her feathers ruffled by not getting an invitation, so she predicted that by Rosa’s 16th birthday, she would prick her finger on a thorn, and die!  But, fear not, all was not lost, as the third fairy, the Little One, had yet to bestow his present.  So, unable to undo the curse, he soften it by allowing her to go only into a deep sleep, if this were to happen, and would be awakened from it by the kiss of her true love.  Well, as the child got older, she was an avid nature lover and especially like roses (her namesake) but the King, fearing that its thorns would be her undoing, ordered all roses destroyed and that the fairies were to hide her away from temptations, deep in the forest, until her 16th birthday.

I think we all know how this ends (although there is a clever twist in this olden tale) but, for the handful of you who don’t, I won’t give away the ending.  And there are some additional characters that punctuate the story, such as the Big Boss Guy (Sam Burns), who seems to run the show; the awkward Princes (Annika Cutler and Henry Martin), who attempt to awaken the Princess; and the Narrator, (Martin Hernandez), who keeps the story moving along.  All add much delight to the already fun proceedings.

And, of course, there is also the wonderful songs and music:  My favorites being “The Kings’ Decree” (Alcalá); “Afuera” (Reyes, also co-lyricist); “Thorns on Every Rose” (Trinka, Reyes & Songwriter?); and “That Bird” (Cutler, Martin & Ellingson).  All the cast have terrific voices, my special favorite is the “belter,” Trinka, as the Evil Fairy and the Diva.  She has a voice and style that could easily be appropriate for clubs and concerts, too.

Hardy has kept the familiar story moving and the interactions with the audience add much to the success of the show.  But the crowning glory is those fabulous, feathered alter egos of the cast, the creation of those colorful puppets (Ellingson).  He has created some stunners in the past for this company but these may be the best.  My hats off to the cast, creators and songsters of this unique production.  We are too short of things that inspire the imagination in these troubled times and it’s good to know that there are still these “safe havens” where, at least, dreams can flourish!

I recommend this show.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

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