By Peter Hendra, Kingston Whig-Standard
One of the things I’ve always loved about those old Bugs Bunny cartoons is that I found them funny when I was a kid — usually when Yosemite Sam got his comeuppance — and also when I was an adult, thanks to the clever comedic nuggets I totally missed when I was younger.
King’s Town Players’ new production of Sleeping Beauty aims for something similar, an entertaining show for children and parents alike. Writer and director Steven Spencer has spun the classic tale into a panto — a musical comedy that encourages the audience to take part — and also introduces a male counterpart.
Both are born on the same day but to different royal couples, each of whom thinks their offspring is superior to the other’s. When one child is cursed, competition forces the other to also claim their son is doomed to a sleep for a hundred years after he is pricked by a model train set rather than a spindle. The kings and queens take protecting their children from harm to the extreme.
The children do meet, as they both try to run away, and they fall in love.
The evil enchantress of the original story is a wizard named Dementos (Cassel Miles), who is still haunted by the ridicule he faced after messing up a card trick in front of the king. So low has his conjuring stock fallen that he’s had to move back in with his demanding parents, who don’t view him as the embodiment of evil that he aspires to be.
There are lots of chuckle-worthy jokes in this retelling, but you have to pay close attention or you’ll miss them.
Just to be sure that it was entertaining for the younger set, I brought along my 10-year-old friend Lyla.
The play was pretty funny, she told me afterward, and she especially liked the slapstick musical number in the Parisian restaurant, in which Dementos’ assistant Denise (Haley Dufour) tries to prick Rose (Madelin Dawson) with the spindle and put her to sleep, yet is thwarted by a surprisingly aggressive wait staff.
Another highlight for her was when the tables are turned on the overly competitive queens.
She also really liked the panto parts, particularly when we got to throw paper mache rocks at the zombies, who at one point wandered into the audience (I told you it was different).
I have to agree with Lyla: the panto parts are a lot of fun.
However, I wished there had been a few more of those in the first half of the production, after having so much fun during the ones in the second half.
My favourite running gag in the show was the one involving the narrator (Craig Deacon), who is imprisoned for 18 years and then on the run even though he’s not technically a character in the play.
I also thought Miles’s Dementos character was a hoot (Lyla’s favourite was Dawson’s heroine, Rose), and there were plenty of fun performances throughout.
While this isn’t the slickest production you’re going to see, that’s part of its charm, I think. Everyone onstage seemed like they were enjoying themselves, and it was infectious.
While Sleeping Beauty isn’t your typical Christmas story to put you in the holiday spirit, it will likely boost yours instead.
An adaptation written and directed by Steven Spencer.
A King’s Town Players production playing until Dec. 17 at the Rotunda Theatre, Theological Hall, Queen’s University. Performances are Wednesday to Saturday at 7 p.m., with matinees on the Saturdays at 1:30 p.m.
Dementos: Cassel Miles
Rose: Madelin Dawson
Hubert: Garrett Cluett
Isabel: Cindy Chappell
Rizabel: Rebecca Fryer