TELLURIDE – The fictitious Wiggly Knots Semi-Professional Theatrical Troupe is going to put on the best darn opening night performance of Sleeping Beauty you’ve ever seen, but not without first giving you a glimpse into the dramatic inner-workings of the theater world, complete with an unhappily married couple that can’t stay in character, an overconfident supporting male who believes he’s the next Marlon Brando, a female lead who is easy on the eyes but lacking in talent, and an inept stage manager.
That’s the framework for Sleeping Beauty (Sort Of), the latest production from the Sheridan Arts Foundation’s Young People’s Theater, now in its twelfth year, playing at the Sheridan Opera House this weekend, Friday, Dec. 3 through Sunday, Dec. 5, at 6 p.m., nightly.
An original production written over the past summer by YPT Artistic Director Jennifer Julia for a cast of sixth, seventh and eighth graders, Julia described the roughly 70-minute musical as “one of the tightest, funniest, smartest shows that we’ve done in awhile.”
Centered on a theatrical troupe gone awry, most of the 25 cast members play two parts, those of the fairy tale characters and their actor alter egos, as they bicker, second-guess casting decisions and flirt with other players, all while trying to put on a show under the guidance of their frustrated director, Graciella von Shine (Erica Lindauer).
“It has been an interesting concept to explore,” said Julia, of the dual nature of the musical, which features tunes from Cole Porter to Toni Basil and Soft Cell.
Despite the young age of the cast, “You can’t underestimate their understanding of comedy and how to deliver a joke,” she said.
The unorthodox retelling of the classic fairy tale plays on theater jokes and the incomparable goings-on that can only happen in the thespian world, and features fun twists on traditional parts like a chorus of leather-clad male fairies with black wings and attitude.
In the leading roles, Lindauer as von Shine sees her nearly every direction unintentionally flubbed by gawky Robert (T.J. Fulton), the incompetent stage manager she keeps around because he’s willing to work for Oreo cookies.
Then there’s the sleeping beauty herself, Princess Rowena (Devon McHugh), who got the lead because of her looks but can’t sing a note, the evil fairy Astrid (Griffin Mueller) who all-too-convincingly curses the baby Rowena but whose “real life” character complains that she’s typecast as mean.
Zach Nunn and Angie Skelton play the King and Queen, but offstage they’re really Raymond and Annette, whose marital dysfunction can’t help but carry over onto the stage.
“It makes for some farcical comedy that’s really fun for the kids to play and I think audiences will enjoy as well,” said Julia.
Also in sizeable roles are Bailey Niebruegge as the leader of the good fairies, Zane Jackson doing double-duty as Prince Jeffrey and the conceited Troy and Sam Finger and Teddy Herrick as good fairies.
“I really do feel that this is one of our best shows just because it’s a really, really strong cast that works well together; they’re a good team,” said Julia, encouraging kids of all ages to come out to enjoy the show and its sophisticated humor this weekend.
As an added bonus, children who come dressed in character – think princes, princesses and fairies – will receive a free popcorn.
“I’m very excited about this show,” said Julia.
The Sheridan Arts Foundation’s Young People’s Theater presents Sleeping Beauty (Sort Of) at the Sheridan Opera House from Friday, Dec. 3 through Sunday, Dec. 5. at 6 p.m. nightly. Tickets: children 12 and under, $11; adults, $13; and small children seated on a guardian’s lap, free, are reserved seating only and may be purchased at www.sheridanoperahouse.com.