Jim Greenlees (Jimgreenlees)
Post Number: 270
|Posted on Sunday, May 27, 2007 - 6:40 pm: |
(Note: Meg and I saw the show April 20-21. Blame the delay on anything you like. Any mistakes here are mine; Meg will follow with her impressions, and hopefully correct/clarify.)
Imagine Sleeping Beauty (“SB” hereafter, in deference to my fingers) as a rebelling teenager.
Imagine the Handsome Prince as a lounge lizard Elvis (but not in looks)
Imagine if he wasn’t SB’s true love.
Imagine if she slept on, and her father traded everything for the magic to stay alive until she woke in the present day as a sleeping disorder patient.
Imagine if she falls in love with a narcoleptic orderly, who takes her for a ride on his Harley.
Now imagine it done in sign and voice.
That is/was the essence of Sleeping Beauty Wakes, as done by Val, Brendan, Gene stand-in Shannon Ford, Deaf West Theater, and the Center Theatre Group.
One thing to remember is that this was not a GrooveLily concert, or even Striking 12. It was closer to last year’s Midsummer Night’s Dream: music written around a plot, with band members playing instruments, singing some (but by no means all) of the songs, and adding small on-stage roles. In a like vein, the music and lyrics are not “classical” GrooveLily, although the influences are plain.
All performers signed, which makes the play visually lyrical, sensual, and threatening. The signing by the deaf actors, as would be expected, was much much much more expressive. I was particularly struck by the nuance and malevolence inherent in the signing of the Bad Fairy.
Three of the leads (SB, groundskeeper/orderly, Bad Fairy/sleep doctor) are deaf, as is the Handsome Prince/sleep study patient. Val spoke and sang for SB, Brendan spoke and did some of the singing for the groundskeeper/orderly, and Shannon spoke and did some of the singing for the Prince/sleep patient. Interestingly, Val and Brendan did not do their own singing in their on-stage roles as Snow White and Rip Van Winkle (two of the famous sleepers who keep SB company in her dreams over the years; Shannon played Urashima Taro, who, according to Japanese stories, slept undersea). This was perhaps to differentiate the characters from the leads for whom they were speaking and singing.
The production was divided into a prologue and two acts. The songs (with commentary) by these:
Everything Changes But You – Gene sang this in concert, but Brendan sang the groundskeeper’s role in the show
Wake Up Call For Love – late Elvis, with a side of lounge lizard
Can You Cure Me – the sleep study patients begging for help
Only A King – Brendan sang this in concert, but the King sings it now
Dream With Me – Val as Snow White (with a black bouffant wig), Brendan as Rip Van Winkle (complete with long grey hair and beard), and Shannon as Urashima Taro (replete in samurai wig)
It’s A Girl – celebrating the birth of SB, and delivering naming celebration invitations to (almost) everybody
Uninvited – Val sang this in concert, but the actress doing the speaking for the Bad Fairy did almost as well. The signing/body language of the Bad Fairy added to the malevolence.
Gift Giving Sequence – sleep study patients relating their dreams of the presents given the infant S.B.
Lullaby/Dream With Me Reprise – the sleep study patients trying to get the orderly back to sleep
Out of Harm’s Way
Trouble – SB & the greenkeeper’s son; I expected poodle skirts
Drifting – a beautiful song about discovering love
Out of Harm’s Way Reprise
Bring It On – SB rebelling against the restrictions and curse
Wheel Goes Round – nicely ominous description by the Bad Fairy of how a spinning wheel works, with the inevitable ending
She’s Awake – the sleep study patients learn SB has awakened
Eyes Wide Open – discovering the strange new world of modern-day LA
Can You Cure Me? Reprise – now the sleep study patients can’t sleep
You Make Me Feel Awake – another nice love song, on a motorcycle
Still Small Hours – ever try to sleep? With SB awake, the sleep study patients are too
Only A King Reprise – the king lamenting SB’s foray to the mall on the back of the orderly’s motorcycle
Quintet – five different songs sung at the same time; and yes, it works
Lullaby Reprise – SB trying to get back to sleep to save her father
Take It Back (Bring It On Reprise) – Beauty’s Dream – the Queen entreating the Bad Fairy to reverse the curse
Everything Changes But You Reprise – SB bringing the song list full circle, this time as an elegy for her dying father
The plot flickered between the kingdom of the fairy tale and the present day. One of the reviewers linked by Adam found this confusing. I could see his problem, but not agree with it. Linearity would have destroyed the logical flow of action. Think of it as flashback sequences.
Most of the actors, except for SB, played multiple roles; one in the fairy kingdom, and one in the present-day sleep clinic. The Queen was one of the sleep study patients, and also sang Snow White’s part. (All GL fans be quiet over this apparent heresy. See my earlier comment.) Another sleep study patient was also a royal servant, and sang the Handsome Prince and Rip Van Winkle parts. (Ibid.) The third sleep study patient earlier played the Handsome Prince. The fourth patient was another royal servant, plus the voice of the Bad Fairy/clinic director. The groundskeeper (SB’s pre-curse first love) also played the orderly (SB’s present-day love). The Bad Fairy was also the sleep clinic director. The King was, well, the former king in a sweater vest in the present day. Trust me, it all worked.
Beyond the fact that this allowed an opportunity for a whirlwind trip to LA, to stay in the hotel that housed the Munchkins during Wizard of Oz, and to visit the Venice Beach boardwalk and Malibu, it was a trip I wouldn’t have traded for anything. To see the fruits of the band taking the next step to their destiny, to once again see Val’s parents (visiting for the week), and to hear, if not GrooveLily in concert, then as good, is something to treasure.
The Revolution may have changed beyond what any of us thought when we first let GrooveLily become a part of us, but what it is becoming is something real, and precious, and unique.
Watch what happens next. Be there.