- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 7, 2006

How do you spruce up a retro fairy tale like “Sleeping Beauty” to make it relevant to today’s confident, take-charge young girls?

Imagination Stage’s production of “Sleeping Beauty: The Time Traveler” appeals to both genders with its treatment of pop culture gadgetry and overprotective parents.

Previously produced by Imagination Stage in 2000 at their old digs in Rockville’s White Flint Mall, this staging takes advantage of the group’s new Bethesda space and technological advances.

The music by Deborah Wicks La Puma, enhanced by the kicky rhymes of Andrea Dodds’ lyrics, remains as sprightly as ever, especially the infectious elation of “Wide Awake” in the finale. A small orchestra tucked into a castle turret in the wings gives the production added interest and richness.

The story by Janet Stanford updates the Sleeping Beauty legend by downplaying the princess-awakened-by-a-prince’s-kiss and happy ever after-ing while emphasizing a young person’s journey to independence. Aurora (Margo Seibert) is the princess, a vibrant and inquisitive girl who loves to read epic tales of knights and brave women warriors. She dreams of the day when she dashes across the countryside on her steed. But her parents, the Queen (Janet Patton) and King (Peter Boyer), will not hear of her venturing past the medieval castle’s walls.

Reluctant to tell their daughter why she is so confined, the parents relate in “Aurora’s Song” that a disgruntled fairy put a curse on the baby princess. If she is pricked by a spindle’s needle, Aurora will fall into a deep sleep for a thousand years. She will awaken when people fly like birds and can skim over oceans in a matter of hours.

The musical zips back to the future for the story of Rolly (Andrew Honeycutt), an indifferent student who would rather zap evil wizards with his Nintendo than crack a book. His failing grades prompt his parents (Miss Patton and Mr. Boyer again) to take a historical tour of France, where the thought of touring one more castle sends him straight to snoozeland.

In his dream, Rolly meets Aurora, who tells of being “grounded since birth,” and enlists her new friend’s help for a taste of freedom. At first, Rolly thinks he’s gone virtual and is living in a video game, but eventually he loosens his death grip on the joystick and discovers that heroism and action are not confined to the computer screen.

While “Sleeping Beauty” moves briskly and brightly, and the cast contributes engaging performances, continuity problems interfere with the charm. At first, you’re led to believe Rolly is dreaming, but at the end when Aurora is awakened, he asks her to come to America and become part of the family. The show gets rid of any taint of too-close siblings by having Rolly kiss Aurora’s hand — but you really have to suspend disbelief when his parents pop up and immediately embrace the idea of having a total stranger as their new teenage daughter.

Aurora’s blithe acceptance of her new life in the 21st century does not satisfactorily solve the problem of leaving her own mother and father without so much as an “adieu.” But then, you figure a millennium or so has passed, so maybe it is not such an issue.

Quibbles aside, smothering parents are eternally a bane to their children, no matter how noble their intentions. “Sleeping Beauty: The Time Traveler” astutely casts aside the fantasy of an enchanted girl awakened by a prince for a more resonant, updated story about how shielding children from all the evil realities in the world may do more harm than good.

**1/2

WHAT: “Sleeping Beauty: The Time Traveler,” book by Janet Stanford, lyrics by Andrea Dodds, music by Deborah Wicks La Puma

WHERE: Imagination Stage, 4908 Auburn Ave., Bethesda

WHEN: 12:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturdays, 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. Sundays. Through Nov. 5.

TICKETS: $10 to $20

PHONE: 301/280-1660

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS


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