Sleeping Beauty And Her Winter Knight
Lythgoe Family Productions Presents “Sleeping Beauty And Her Winter Knight” at the Pasadena Playhouse
Opening Night, December 12, 2014
Review By: Laurie Allred
A modern-day twist on a classic Grimm tale, “Sleeping Beauty And Her Winter Knight” features goosebump-inducing hits performed by a cast of exceptional singers and Broadway alums. Wishing it was more in line with the original Grimm tale, the show does not fall short on magic and merriment.
Disney newcomer Olivia Holt, most notable for her role in Disney Channel’s “I Didn’t Do It,” is perfectly cast as Aurora, the beautiful yet sometimes clueless princess destined to marry another handsome yet oblivious prince, performed by Garrett Clayton (Disney’s Teen Beach Movie). The pair has instant chemistry onstage and Clayton’s romantic ballad of John Legend’s “All of Me,” (the night’s most romantic number) is sure to make Teen Beach fans swoon. Clayton does an exceptional job playing the charming prince and mixes natural charm with a hint of a dumb blonde that got even the parents of children giggling at his joking comments.
Though Holt’s vocals are not the traditional sweet vocals one often hears in Disney songs, her sultry alto voice shines in numbers “Domino” and “Best Day of My Life.” In fact, with the song “Best Day of My Life,” Holt, who wants to “sing with the animals in the forest” (like any other classic princess) is joined my various forest critters in a happy-go-lucky song that elicits an audience-wide sing-along. Donning furry animal heads, many of the young cast looked a bit silly, but the overall happy theme of the song was evident.
Another stand-out number was the opening of “Party Rock” where, you guessed it, an array of talented children shuffle and breakdance on stage, and audience members (like myself) cannot help, but gape in awe at their dancing ability. The play’s choreography was done by “So You Think You Can Dance” alum Spencer Liff, who has been nominated for “Best Choreography” in the 2012 Emmys. Liff, who mostly choreographs jazz pieces, does a superb job mixing various dance styles in the play, ranging from the breakdancing bouts in “Party Rock” to a fun “Footloose” number that features the entire ensemble doing Kevin Bacon’s signature moves.
The best performer of the night was by far “American Idol” alum, Tamyra Grey, who plays The Good Fairy. Her rendition of Mariah Carey’s “Hero” was greeted by booming applause and echoed each time she joined the stage. She also closed the night with classic Christmas song “Oh, Holy Night” as fake snow trickled down on audiences to cast Christmas spirit, my personal favorite holiday moment of the night.
On the other hand, the antagonist of the story is The Evil Fairy, wickedly and splendidly performed by Lucy Lawless. In an interview before the show, Lawless stated that she had always wanted to play this particular role and wanted to go crazy with the role. Though deemed the “evil character” of the play, audiences were still very excited to witness her performance on stage, as Lawless originally starred in “Xena: Warrior Princess,” which garnered a great fan following. Her rendition of The Evil Fairy was fun and lively, and Lawless absolutely did not hold anything back when she thought of the character, frolicking on stage to songs such as “One Way or Another” and showcasing her vocals on Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse.”
However, though filled with vocalists doing great renditions of today’s Top 40 and classic songs such as “Eye of the Tiger,” the play’s screenplay does not shine so bright. The script often goes for cheap laughs and contains crass jokes that go over the heads of many members in the audience, both children and families alike. The characters Nanny Tickle (David Engel) and Silly Billy (Ben Giroux) offer comedic relief, but their punchlines fall short as crass jokes muster only occasional laughs. Many times, it seems audience members were laughing at the dialogue exchange, rather than with the characters. Both Engel, a Broadway veteran, and Giroux, who has stared on various Nickelodeon shows over the years, are talented actors, but unfortunately, their characters add an unneeded silliness to the story of Sleeping Beauty.
Though lacking in witty dialogue, “Sleeping Beauty And Her Winter Knight” excites audiences with soaring vocals and exciting performances by television turned Broadway stars. The show leaves audiences exiting the Pasadena Playhouse filled to the brim with Christmas cheer.