Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Seattle

Sleeping Beauty at Seattle Children's Theatre

Also see David's reviews of No, No, Noel and Forbidden Xmas (2005)

Allen Galli as Griff, R. Khanh Doan as Briar Rose
Seattle Children's Theatre has mounted a handsome looking and ebulliently performed production of Sleeping Beauty on its main-stage, with the power to enchant audiences of all ages. The spare, succinct adaptation by Welsh playwright Charles Way has been augmented by an attractive, if not exceptionally necessary, musical score by longtime Seattle composer/lyricist Chad (Angry Housewives) Henry. But as expertly directed by Rita Giomi, all the elements co-exist quite satisfactorily.

Although the ad graphics for the production suggest otherwise, this is not Disney's Sleeping Beauty. Way's Briar Rose, the sleeping beauty, is a foundling for whom both the good witch Branwen and her evil sister Modron have plans. Modron, a more complex and shaded villainess than is normally interpreted in this tale, wants to raise the child herself, but the determined Branwen bestows Briar Rose on the barren King Peredur and Queen Guinevere. Uninvited to Briar Rose's christening, Modron places a curse on Briar Rose, that she will die from a spindle prick on her 16th birthday, but Branwen thwarts her by modifying the curse to a sleep of one hundred years, from which Briar Rose may only be awakened by her true love's kiss. Over the next 16 years, Briar Rose is watched over by Branwen's trusted half-man/half dragon Griff, and befriended by the gawkily charming, if rather hapless, neighboring prince Owain. Neither is able to prevent the curse from coming true, but Owain, in the course of several adventures, both comic and frightening, finally finds his inner adventurer and battles Modron off in time for the proverbial happy ending.

Way's script is literate yet accessible. To provide a full musical theatre type score to accompany it would have resulted in a show with a running time of well over two hours. As a result, the majority of Chad Henry's contributions are really just song snippets, and the few that aspire to take off into something on the order of Ashman and Menken's Beauty and the Beast fall short. The show is performed by a vastly talented but small ensemble cast, most of whom double in secondary roles, so there are no big choral or choreographic moments. And yet, thanks to Giomi's subtle and character oriented direction and the acting company, this proves only a minor failing, and one not likely to bother most audience members.

Khanh Doan is a spirited and impish Briar Rose and plays well off her primary scene partners, the rough hewn but lovable man/dragon Griff, played with vaudevillian style panache by Allan Galli, and the gawky prince Owain, engagingly portrayed by MJ Sieber. As the witchy sisters, Anne Allgood is brimming with simmering menace yet somehow sympathetic as Modron, and Julie Briskman keeps her good sister Branwen lovable without becoming too fey and flighty. Kevin C. Loomis is a solid and lovably buffoonish King, but also the face and speaking voice for the riddling Spider King whom Owain meets in his quest to get to Briar Rose. Bobbi Kotula is an adorable, somewhat dotty old Queen, but comes close to stealing the show along with Doan (who has a long offstage wait otherwise while Beauty sleeps) as a pair of giddy fairies who force Owain into a dancing competition in the midst of his odyssey, a sequence well staged by choreographer Marianne Roberts.

Scenic designer Carey Wong delivers what is quite possibly the loveliest fairy tale style settings ever seen at SCT, accompanied by dreamy lighting by Rick Paulsen and handsome costumes by Catherine Hunt. Additional bravos are surely in order for fight choreographer Geoffrey Alm's work on the climactic sword fight between Modron and Prince Owain and the spider puppet design by Douglas N. Paasch, which may cause a few younger audience members to shudder.

Sleeping Beauty runs through February 4 at Seattle Children's Theatre, 201 Thomas St. in Seattle Center. For more information go on-line at

Photo: Chris Bennion 

- David-Edward Hughes

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