Monday, July 15, 2013


By Tina Arth and Darrell Baker

Wendy Upton (left) works with director Ashli Zijdemans.
It’s never too early to introduce children to the magical world of theater, whether from the audience or the stage. Forest Grove’s CAST Playhouse proves this at Theatre in the Grove with their absurdly charming offering of Sleeping Beauty Kids, a 45-minute adaptation of Disney’s movie take on the classic fairy tale. Like the children around us in the audience, we could not take our eyes off the stage as 23 kids from five to twelve brought the love story of Princess Aurora and Prince Philip to life on Saturday evening.

Director Ashli Zijdemans’ dedication shines through the enthusiasm and energy of her cast, who all give 110% to the production. There are too many sparkling performers to name them all, but each of the eight principals brings something special to the stage.

King Stefan and Queen Stefanie (Madison Brandenburg and Sara McVean) are properly regal, keeping a stiff upper lip as they face the heartbreaking decision to protect their newborn from the evil Maleficent’s curse by sending her away. The three fairies, entrusted for sixteen years with the safety of the young princess, deliver many of the show’s funniest moments. Flora (Mariah Mollahan) provides mature leadership to her tiny band, the sweetly cooperative Fauna (Samantha Kennedy) and the hilariously feisty Merryweather (Luella Harrelson).

Wendy Upton portrays the aptly named witch Maleficent with a flamboyant and all-pervading wickedness well beyond her years. Her icy delivery and confident vocals keep the audience, as well as Princess Aurora, quite thoroughly spellbound. 

Abby Cogswell (Princess Aurora), Kiran Bourget Snyder (Prince Phillip)
Abby Cogswell (Princess Aurora) and Kiran Bourget Snyder (Prince Phillip) are a wonderful match – Aurora beautiful, naïve, and sheltered but immediately drawn to the handsome and worldly prince in disguise. The almost-lost art of ballroom dancing is momentarily resurrected in their touching waltz.

Three ensemble groups round out the cast – the fairies in training, the forest animals, and Maleficent’s goons. They provide strong choral support, and the goons are uninhibitedly energetic throughout.

The show’s educational role extends beyond the cast, as the 5-person tech crew (all under 18) provide flawless support. The set, while simple, is effective – and set changes are achieved in record time. The colorful and elaborate costumes dress not only the performers, but the stage, and add to the medieval ambience of the story.

Many thanks to Theatre in the Grove, CAST Playhouse, the Cultural Coalition of Washington County, and the Public Arts Commission of Forest Grove for ensuring that kids in Forest Grove have access to critical theater arts experience. The minimal ticket prices and open registration for the cast mean that no child who wants to participate is turned away. The show has one more weekend to run, and we strongly recommend that you show your support by taking your kids, grandkids, or anyone who’s young at heart to see Sleeping Beauty Kids.


Sleeping Beauty Kids runs through July 21st, with performances at 7 pm on Friday the 19th and Saturday the 20th and a 2:30 matinee on July 21st. Tickets are available at Theatre in the Grove, 2028 Pacific Avenue, Forest Grove.

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