Everyone knows the story of Sleeping Beauty, the princess named Briar Rose born in the kingdom of Never Nod who pricks her finger on a spindle on her 16th birthday and falls into a deep sleep until her true love’s kiss breaks the spell.
This weekend, Phoenixville Area Middle School’s art department, led by an army of parents and volunteers, put a special spin the Disney classic and brought down the curtain in the final fall play to be held on the William D. Kelley Stage.
Director Mike Donnelly, in his 13th year, and his team of assistant director Lauren Campbell, Carl Seville (production design), Ben Spinelli (artistic director) and technical director Amy Darby have raised the bar for upcoming years. The scenery, props and music of “Beauty” were worthy of a professional troupe.
“This is a great show for the kids,” said Donnelly. “Everybody knows the tale, so it was so important to add our own touches. The music we chose features today’s music and dance steps, which the kids had a blast doing.”
The curtains rose to a rousing dance number by a pajama-clad ensemble as they head to the fairy tale world of Disney, followed by a captivating scene in the evil witch Evilina’s lair where “Spider” Marley Battista is lowered from the rafters on her web as the wicked Evilina concocts her plan of revenge on Briar Rose for being left out of the birth festivities.
PAMS students added their own comic relief during the scene and costume changes, and at one point the Disney princess group of Cinderella, Ariel, Jasmine and Belle were led through the woods by Snow White. One of the funniest moments of the entire show was when the royal quintet was on their way to the birthday party with gifts for Briar Rose.
Ariel (music), Cinderella (a box of shoes with three, “because you never know”), Jasmine (a lamp), Belle (a book) and Snow White who scoffs “What girl makes a mistake and she can’t be trusted with an apple” as she get dirty looks from her friends when she announces that her shiny red apple is for the princess.
Eighth-grader David D’Ardenne was brilliant as the chef and his quirky on stage personality brought laughs and smiles to the faces of the children and adults alike who packed the auditorium.
“It was fun to play the chef,” said D’Ardenne. “I have always done this quirky strange voice and character. My friends always told me 'you should use that in a play sometime,' so it was perfect opportunity to use it. This production has been so great to be a part of.”
Evilina (Carlee Horgan) continues on her mission to ruin the birthday festivities and after she hears of the good witch's spell to lessen her death curse into a sleeping spell, she takes it to a new level by turning Rose’s beau Prince Alexander, played by Jordan Mudd, into a frog and sending him off into the forest, never to be found.
“It was fun to play a Disney villain,” said Horgan, in her first lead role. “I tried out for the part, but had no idea that I would actually get it. We have all worked really hard and the show has really come together. It is such a great cast and our directors have been awesome and so has the art teacher Mr. Spinelli, who designed the sets and the dragon.”
The breathtaking era costumes and scenery instantly transport the audience into the dream world of Disney and every child’s imagination, but the journey would not be possible without people like costume designer Laurel Wisley and her group of helpers, who were responsible for every costume.
“I love it, this play was such a challenge,” said Wisley, who started production back in August. “Mike (Donnelly) gives me the script and we decide which direction we want to go and then the work begins. The kids have been great and the show is just amazing. It is so much fun to be a part of this.”
The choreography for the dance numbers, which was outstanding, was not without its highlights and comic moments. As Prince Alexander battled the wall of thorns they added a “Matrix-esque” slow-motion sequence, leading up to the big battle with the Dark Knight (Nick Lu) before which Alexander called time out and wanted be sure the duo stretched properly before their battle.
The climactic scene in which Evilina transforms into a 10-foot dragon was a hit, complete with confetti cannon fire before the prince vanquished the evil witch and saved the day.
Any child dressed as a prince or princess was admitted to the show for free and was allowed on stage following the performance to get their photos taken with Elivina (and her dragon alter ego) as well as Princess Briar Rose and Prince Alexander on the bench from which she was awakened.
The show was performed from Nov. 17 to Nov. 19 at .