In a breezy, outdoor staging of “Rumpelstiltskin,” Saddleback College’s Just for Kids troupe blows the dust off an old chestnut to reveal a tiny gem. Last weekend, the show--which runs twice daily Thursday through Sunday at the Outdoor Kids Theatre on campus--beguiled children as young as 3 and prompted genuine grins from adults.
It works well for a number of reasons. Near the top of the list is Moses Goldberg’s script, which transforms the Brothers Grimm’s dark fairy tale into a 50-minute romp that is whimsical without being overly frivolous.
Director Joe Lauderdale was an ideal choice to stage the play. His past work with the Laguna Playhouse Youth Theatre (of which he is artistic director) consistently has demonstrated his knack for turning out productions that are accessible to young audiences without pandering to them.
Another good choice was to use the outdoor stage for this show, instead of for the darker “Rapunzel and the Witch” which also is running at Saddleback (see accompanying review). Sitting in the grass in a shaded amphitheater, ringed by hundreds of fluttering, rainbow-hued streamers, you easily can imagine yourself at a Renaissance fair.
Even before the play starts, Lauderdale’s six high school-aged cast members catch the crowd up in reveling, engaging in impromptu bits of pantomime suggested by the kids. Once the play was underway on Friday, some viewers continued to contribute ideas and comments whether they’d been asked to or not. The audience, mostly 4- to 8-year-olds, was a boisterous bunch, but the cast managed to not let things get too out of hand.
In fact, imaginations got a vigorous workout throughout the performance, as viewers were asked to pitch in such things as invisible baked goods or likely last names for a fiendish Rumpelstiltskin.
The script (or maybe it’s Lauderdale’s treatment of it) sticks fairly close to the original story but throws in some topical humor (we won’t tell you what Rump’s last name is, but it does have something to do with the bankruptcy of a certain county).
Mike Tryon is notable as Rumpelstiltskin, the mean-spirited troll who spins straw into gold to save the neck of the baker’s daughter. Wearing a nasty little grin and a truly ridiculous hat, Tryon is scary enough but not too intimidating for the little ones. Seth David Gorelik’s baker is a delightfully pompous ass with a wide goofy streak that makes the character endearing.
Playwright Goldberg has added a nice sophisticated touch, a mime character, played gracefully by Noelle Bird, who alternately serves as onstage prop mistress, silent ensemble member and even a spinning wheel.
Although things generally move right along, there are points in which the action comes to a stop, apparently to indicate the passage of time from one incident to the next. The down time can be irksome for youngsters who are already pumped up, and Wally Huntoon’s bare-bones set (just a few colored boxes and some painted walls) offers no divertissement. There is no music to fill the gaps, either.
Diane Lewis has costumed the cast in loose-fitting, one-colored pajama outfits or simple dresses for the start of the show. She then overlays them with hats, robes or accessories that aptly define their characters.
* “Rumpelstiltskin,” Saddleback College Outdoor Kids Theatre, 28000 Marguerite Parkway, Mission Viejo. Thursday-Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Closes Sunday . $6 for children and adults. (714) 582-4656. Running time: 50 minutes.
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Mike Tryon: Rumpelstiltskin
Seth David Gorelik: baker
Athena Gam: daughter
Anne-Michelle Friedman: Queen
Mike Purdy: Prince
Noelle Bird: mime
A Saddleback College Summer Theatre production of a play by Moses Goldberg, directed by Joe Lauderdale. Set design: Wally Huntoon. Costume and make-up design: Diane Lewis. Stage manager: Molly Rosen.