SLEEPING BEAUTY: Show Review by Amy Wall Lerman
The New Victory Theater in Manhattan knows how to entertain young (and old) alike with shows from all over the world – this time with an incredible production of Sleeping Beauty – a unique theatrical experience from Milan, Italy.
In an era when films and video games are all the rage with animation so real you can reach out and touch it, it’s hard to believe that a puppet show would be able to pack a Manhattan theater. Well, it may be hard to believe, but it’s happening and will continue to happen until this Sunday, November 10th.
The New Victory Theater itself is not unlike most Broadway showcases with its older decor, worn cushioned seats, cherubs on the cathedral ceilings, and magnificent plush red curtains hiding the stage beyond. Every time I enter a theater like this I feel like I’m being transported to a time when theaters were built to house the very wealthy, or at least, the well-dressed. I was thinking about the clashing images of former opulence and my faded jeans when the curtain opened. I shushed the two six-year-old boys I’d brought along for the show as they fidgeted and chatted beside me, then sat back and allowed myself to absorb the Italian words scrolled across a small screen: C’era una volta (or Once Upon a Time).
When that screen lifts, the audience is immediately transported to a palatial ballroom with gilt ceilings and trumpet blaring servants in the form of a mini-stage. Glittering robes and sparkling gowns adorn the oversized marionettes that move with staccato gestures – the only reminder that there are actual people behind the scene.
This is animation in its original form. No gimmicks except for what can be produced by the imagination and the human hand. The artistry is in the movements of each marionette, the stunning costumes, and the lovely staging. Between the visual brilliance of this production and the musical score by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky – familiar to most of us since it is the music that has told the story of Sleeping Beauty since the 19th Century – this is a show that could dazzle even the most rambunctious of little boys. (Note the word “could” here because my son and his friend were bored…they are the kind of kids who prefer the swash-buckling antics of Captain Hook to dancing fairies no matter how brightly they glitter).
But the most appreciative audience is more likely to be us – the grownups – the ones who remember when stories were told – impromptu – at bed time, or read from books, or presented at the movies versus readily available on a DVR. We remember the world before Super Mario and Pixar. We were on the cusp of more “fancy” animation with the early Disney films and stop-motion animation like that of the made-for-TV version of Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer.
As adults, we can appreciate the impeccable artistry of Italian craftsman who lovingly carve each marionette by hand in a centuries old family tradition. And if you’ve visited the palaces of Europe, you can easily recognize the historically inspired set design.
What the young person will take away is the beauty, the story, the shimmering dresses, the diminutive stage – more suited the marionette and the child’s eye-view. They may remember the slower movements of the puppets and the multi-layered scenery that thoughtfully transforms a beautiful palace into an overgrown forest of bramble and thorns. Whether they fidget or are transfixed, this show is sure to be an unforgettable experience because, despite the rich history of marionette theater, it is all new to today’s youth and a breath of fresh to the rest of us who remember life at a slightly slower pace.
Sleeping Beauty is performed by Carlo Colla & Sons Marionette Company. The source material comes from both a well-known story (Charles Perrault’s original fairy tale) and well-known music (Tchaikovsky’s ballet score). The show is directed by puppeteer, writer, and artist, Eugenio Monti Colla. The Colla family has been making marionettes since the early 18th century. Today, the company, based in Milan, Italy, is one of the most recognized puppet theaters in the world.
For tickets and information visit The New Victory Theater online.