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Sleeping Beauty (Review)

ETC's holiday show casts a spell on kids and adults

By Julie York Coppens · December 7th, 2009 · Onstage

Critic's Pick

To sleep for 100 years. Sounds pretty good at the height of the holiday rush. Where’s an evil fairy when you need one?

Happily, we don’t have to be a certain hibernating princess to escape the hustle and give our kids a rest from their Santa obsessions. Last seen at Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati (ETC) in 2004, Sleeping Beauty is one of a collection of fractured fairy tales by area playwright Joseph McDonough and composer David Kisor.

The shows take turns every few years in ETC’s December slot. There are now at least as many titles as Snow White had dwarves.

Compared to last year’s entry, Alice in Wonderland (I haven’t seen the others), Beauty is prettier and less zany, as the source material would suggest.

Its operatic soul lies uneasily with such crowd-pleasing gimmicks as an Elvis-inspired prince and a sock-puppet dragon who likes to play hide-and-seek. Despite D. Lynn Meyers’ solid direction, the show’s look is another odd pastiche.

Still, Sleeping Beauty casts a spell, largely on the powers of two women: Deb G. Girdler, the most reliable villainess in the kingdom (she was the Queen of Hearts last season), who hits an even wider range of evil and hilarious notes here as the avenging fairy Wisteria (pictured); and talented CCM student Alaina Mills, making her ETC debut as the princess Briar Rose.

In this botanically themed retelling, it’s a thorn, not a spindle, that puts Briar Rose out of commission. And yes, a new non-Elvis prince (newcomer Will Selnick, appealing in both guises) arrives just in time to riddle-solve and aria his way to her salvation.

The kiss that unites the pair in wakefulness is one of several surprises that make this re-imagined, well-cultivated Sleeping Beauty almost as satisfying for adults as it is for the Disney Princess set. Sweet dreams.

SLEEPING BEAUTY, presented by Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati, continues through Jan. 3. Buy tickets, check out performance times and get venue details here.



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