Two feuding sisters. Two witches. Branwen the bright witch and Modron the dark bring a sibling duel to this entertaining fairytale of magical powers as this First Stage Children’s Theater production of Sleeping Beauty unfolds with engaging and innovative touches.
From the fall of glittering fairy dust on children’s heads as they enter the theater, this performance sparkles. King Peredur and Queen Guinevere are childless, destined by Branwen to discover Briar Rose in scenic designer Rick Rassmusen’s enchanted forest. Branwen’s plan wanders astray when Modron finds the child first, refusing to listen to her sister’s pleas to leave the little girl for the King and Queen. In the heated exchange of conflicting spells, the Royal Couple uncovers the tiny baby and carries her off to the castle where she temporarily escapes Modron.
Seeking revenge for losing this battle, Modron challenges her sister again at Briar Rose’s christening. With only one blessing remaining, the dark witch casts her evil curse of death for Briar Rose before reaching her 16th birthday. Branwen softens her sibling’s dire magic, but the cautious royals burn every spinning wheel on which the princess could prick her finger and die and confine her within the castle walls.
Spinning this inspirational tale is a winning cast of both adult and child actors skillfully directed by Jeff Frank. Molly Glynn’s Modron, deliciously sinister, pairs nicely with Diane Robinson’s benevolent Branwen. The banter between Bo Johnson’s Peredur plays well to Jacque Troy’s Guinevere is delightfully humorous, and the “Briar Rose” children that performed on Friday were exceptionally convincing in their role. The comical additions of Benjamin Riegel’s Gryff and the Tylweth Teg forest fairies create entertaining characters that move the story forward.
With this retelling, Sleeping Beauty sidesteps much of the make-believe to create the real that magic Owain learns lies within himself. As he is told: “A man’s heart is his mightiest weapon.” First Stage’s production ingeniously enhances the original fairytale by presenting the timeless virtues of friendship, love and courage into the realm of kept promises that all ages will certainly appreciate. When Gryff and Branwen encourage Owain in the end scene to again “listen to his heart,” this performance of Sleeping Beauty succeeds in awakening the personal magic lying expectantly inside every heart. VS
First Stage Children’s Theater presents Sleeping Beauty through March 22 at the Todd Wehr Theater, Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. For information call 414.273.7206 or visit First Stage online.