- Sleeping Beauty: The Deliriously Dreamy Family Musical
- Written by
- Jeremy Diamond
- Directed by
- Tracey Flye
- Hilary Farr, AJ Bridel, Paul Constable, James Daly and Eddie Glen
- Elgin Theatre
- Runs Until
- Thursday, January 07, 2016
The theme song to the funny and fun pantomime Sleeping Beauty: The Deliriously Dreamy Family Musical is Celebration, an old good-time hit from Kool & the Gang. "There's a party goin' on right here," the song goes, "a celebration to last throughout the years."
Well, yahoo. But what are we celebrating? Taking in Sleeping Beauty, which opened at the Elgin Theatre on Thursday, one is encouraged to rejoice in the brazen and the unabashed. In real life, a winking, huckstering buffoon is about to become president of the United States. On stage at the Elgin, we were being sold things, too.
As is the tradition with producer Ross Petty's pantos, interspersed within the cornball joy of an outrageously told fairy tale were commercials – larky, taped vignettes featuring the production's characters and actors. One spot was an advertisement for a bank. Another was for a mattress company.
Even the show's star was something of shill: Hilary Farr, who played the glowering swamp-mistress villainess Malignicent, might as well have worn a sandwich-board advertisement over her glittery black gown, because her main gig as a home designer on television was woven right into the plot.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we are living in the post-shame world. And rather than fight it, perhaps we should own it. Cel-e-brate now – c'mon! In between the hawking, there is much amusement to be had from this Sleeping Beauty variation.
And speaking of shamelessness, these annual pantos – a Toronto holiday tradition for more than two decades – are nothing if not a vehicle for tons of puns. When the nap-happy Princess Rose (played by AJ Bridel) apologizes to one of the sleep-world sheep, the talking animal replies, "Aw, it was mutton." The sheep means business, too: "I won't bleat around the bush," he tells the cursed titular princess, who is disorientated in her dreamland state. So, it's like that.
These annual productions are billed as "fractured fairy tales," and, as such, Walt Disney and the Brothers Grimm would probably find this Sleeping Beauty to be an unusual (if highly entertaining) one. Indeed, the folk-story-telling brothers probably wouldn't recognize themselves here. They're part of the show, portrayed as lederhosen-loving dudes with bad hair and Hans-and-Franz accents.
The brothers would recognize the plot, though. A princess baby born to a king and queen is blessed by three good fairies and cursed by an evil one. The upshot of the wicked spell is that Princess Rose must avoid any sort of needle or piercing to her body for her first 18 years. If she suffers a "prick," ahem, she will fall into a coma. Because of that, she literally lives in a protective bubble.
The story is about the star-crossed Princess Rose and Luke (James Daly), a lovestruck lutist. But these two are out-starred on stage by others, including Paul Constable (as the wise-cracking SparkleBum, a fairy-in-training who's done up in the outrageous cosmetics of the hag from The Drew Carey Show) and Eddie Glen, an elfin type whose characters draw from the comic personas of Martin Short and Mike Myers.
The score mixes originals and oldies. One slumber-set sequence involved a medley of Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This), Mr. Sandman, Dream Weaver, Dream a Little Dream of Me and Aerosmith's Dream On. Corny stuff, and probably something we should expect soon as one of Randy Bachman's daffy Vinyl Tap theme shows on CBC Radio.
On Broadway, the vice-president-elect Mike Pence was booed by a theatre audience when he attended the hit hip-hop musical Hamilton. At Sleeping Beauty, the "unfairest of fairies" was jeered repeatedly by the crowd. They should have saved some hissing for the in-play commercials, a live-theatre abomination in an un-embarrassable world.
Sleeping Beauty continues to Jan. 7 (rosspetty.com).