On Theater: SCR Junior Players' rousing 'Sleeping Beauty'

You expect great performances at South Coast Repertory. But the level of talent there also tends to inspire the young thespians in SCR's Theater Conservatory.

These actors — from fifth to eighth grades — currently are putting on a splendid adaptation of the classic fairy tale "Sleeping Beauty" under the inspired and imaginative direction of Mercy Vasquez in SCR's Nicholas Studio theater.

In this version, adapted from the original fable by Charles Way, we have the classic conflict between good and evil, garbed in modern dress and punctuated by some hard rock and rear-screen projections. Not to mention some creative costume designs by DeAnna Rowe and the multi-use setting of Amanda Stuart.

In a cliche-defying choice, Rowe has dressed the villainess (a platinum blonde Jamie Ostmann) all in white and the good witch (dark-haired Rachel Charny) in black — and these two young actresses deliver impressive performances in the play's most demanding roles.

The title character, Briar Rose, is portrayed as a youngster by Caroline Beckman and as the nearly doomed teen by Brooke Boukather. Both turn in fine portrayals and each doubles in two assignments as ensemble characters (although they'd be hard pressed to identify).

A pair of scene-stealing performances are turned in by two young actors sharing a single character — Tristan Steward and Ethan Williams-Dalgart as the three-legged dragon Gryff, recruited by Charny to aid the princess. Benjamin Dilsisian and Lauren Castleton are fine as the virtually powerless king and queen.

Choreographer Laura Murphy has added some challenging ensemble configurations, most involving the fringe-character spiders, which are marvels of coordination despite being somewhat superfluous. Spider King Harvey Sutton (who doubles as the kingdom's ruler this weekend) also impresses with his well-drilled movements.

"Sleeping Beauty" is a project of SCR's Junior Players, all students in the theater's conservatory, who bring two years of training in acting classes to the production.

"These actors represent some of the most talented and committed of our conservatory," says director Vasquez, adding that the conservatory "is a vital and wide-ranging program offering classes to all ages at every level of experience."

Backed by Debra Garcia Lockwood's lighting effects and Patricia Cardona's sound design, "Sleeping Beauty" displays young, budding talent that may well become a part of SCR's future mainstage productions. Summer classes for young actors are being offered, with information available at (714) 708-5577.

TOM TITUS covers local theater for the Daily Pilot.

If You Go

What: "Sleeping Beauty"

Who: South Coast Repertory Junior Players

Where: SCR's Nicholas Studio Theater, 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa

When: Closing performances at 1 and 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Cost: $10

Call: (714) 708-5555

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