Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sleeping Beauty, Vortex Repertory, April 2 - May 9

The Vortex's Sleeping Beauty is a riot of costumes and color, music and dance. Bonnie Cullum and composer-librettist Content Love Knowles keep that cast of 20 swirling in the vortex around the spiral staircase at stage center, animated by Knowles and three other musicians perched high above stage right. Many of the players play double roles. Costumes by Pam Fletcher Friday and Griffon Ramsey are inventive, playful and brilliantly colored, with the witty use of found fabrics and objects, as if the players had discovered a treasure trove of dress-up clothes in grandma's attic.

Jennifer Coy as the Fool deserves the lead image for this musical. In good fool tradition, she is the only real adult in this happy ensemble of gifted adult-sized characters and artists. Coy has a brash, raucous side to her, a knowing wink at this nonsense, and she winds it up with a solo epilogue addressing the audience, making sure that they enjoyed the spectacle and crowing, "And now let's all have a drink!"

Playtime at the Vortex gives us a sprightly retelling of the Sleeping Beauty story full of incident and relatively bereft of deeper meaning. The first act establishes the court, the statuesque Queen (Betsy McCann) yearning for a child, some Disneyesque jumpin' jive in the castle, a long funny number as the Queen is offstage in labor, celebration, and a long, long naming song that saddles the kid with about fifteen names.

And then there's the extended business of fairies bringing gifts. Because the heedless top-hatted King (Adam Smith) neglected to invite her, the impressively salamander-like fairy Ixlamere (Suzanne Balling) curses the newborn with the prediction that she'll prick her finger on a spindle and die.

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