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with John Fleming

Kids, adults enjoy 'Sleeping Beauty' at TECO Theater in Tampa

Children's theater involves a balancing act. Obviously, the play has to engage children, but it also must have enough going on to keep adults who bring the kids from becoming bored.

No worries about that with Sleeping Beauty, the play by Charles Way staged by freeFall Theatre Company in TECO Theater, the black-box space of Patel Conservatory at Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center.

At Sunday's matinee, the audience included lots of children who enjoyed the attractive performers. But Way's treatment also brought a level of complexity to the fairy tale (psychologist Bruno Bettelheim's The Uses of Enchantment is cited in a program note) that made the play a potent fable on the perils of growing up. It was reminiscent of Stephen Sondheim's musical on what happens after "happily ever after," Into the Woods.

At the heart of the story is the sibling rivalry between Branwen, a good witch played by Bonnie Agan, and Modron, a bad witch played by Meg Heimstead. The sisters' names are Celtic, and there was an Enya-esque flavor to the music (on tape).

Agan and Heimstead were worthy foils as they cast competing spells over Briar Rose/Sleeping Beauty (a charming Aleshea Harris). Her imaginary friend, Gryff, a half-man, half-dragon with a Cockney accent, was played with goofy fun by Paul Potenza. Also on hand were a king and queen (Christopher Rutherford and Jessica Alexander), an "utterly useless" prince (Chris Jackson) and various spirits from the forest.

FreeFall made a splash in its debut last fall with the musical The Wild Party. The children's show isn't as lavish a production, and the cast is not as high-powered. Still, there's a simplicity and sweetness to it that demonstrates that artistic director Eric Davis knows how to deploy his resources to good effect, whatever the scale of the production.

Sleeping Beauty has performances at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 and 6 p.m. Sunday at Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, Tampa. Running time: One hour, 35 minutes, including intermission. $18-$24. (813) 229-7827;

Russian classic

Ballet fans may want to check out Giselle tonight in Clearwater. It's one of those romantic 19th century Russian works known as the "white ballets," because of the long white tutus worn by ballerinas. The production is by the Moiseev Russian Classical Ballet and Orchestra (formerly called the Russian National Ballet Theatre and not to be confused with the famed Moiseyev Dance Company). The soloists are Guzel Suleymanova as Giselle and Dimitry Marasanov as Albert. The performance is at 8 tonight at Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater. $35, $40. (727) 791-7400; rutheckerdhall,com.

First flute winner

Clay Ellerbroek, who has been acting principal flute with the Florida Orchestra this season, won the audition for the permanent position held last week. The audition drew 32 flute players.

The orchestra has a "side by side" concert with the Pinellas Youth Symphony at 7:30 tonight at Mahaffey Theater, St. Petersburg. Music director Stefan Sanderling will conduct Wagner and Tchaikovsky. Free.

John Fleming can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8716.

Kids, adults enjoy 'Sleeping Beauty' at TECO Theater in Tampa 03/24/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 25, 2009 11:30am]
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