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Thursday, 24 November 2016 16:46

Wake Up! It’s Ross Petty’s “Sleeping Beauty”

Written by  Dennis Kucherawy
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Multi-talented AJ Bridel,

Beauty herself, chats with us

Annual Panto Begins Previews this Friday, Nov. 25th

By Dennis Kucherawy

“I know you, I walked with you once upon a dream.”

- from Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, written by Sammy Fain and Jack Lawrence (based on Tchaikovsky’s “Sleeping Beauty” ballet)


Children around the world have watched, loved, danced and sang along to Disney’s animated classic “Sleeping Beauty.”  Among them were A.J. Bridel and her sister Alyssa. Well, once upon a dream is today for A.J., the triple-threat musical theatre star, who last year had audiences howling with laughter as the ingénue Lauren in the Toronto production of the Cyndi Lauper-Harvey Feinstein rock-fest “Kinky Boots.”  Her performance was sensational, capturing headlines and rave reviews and earning her a 2016 Dora nomination.

This summer, she sang and danced her heart out in Drayton Festival’s production of “Footloose” in Cambridge and as Sophie in Capitol Theatre’s sensational production of “Mamma Mia” in Port Hope.

Now, she returns to Toronto as the Princess Rose in “Sleeping Beauty – The Deliriously Dreamy Family Musical.”  It’s Ross Petty Productions’ 21st annual family holiday musical, a “fractured fairy tale” set in the kingdom of “Torontonia.”

Performers encourage audience members to cheer the heroes and booooo! the villains.

Anything is possible. You can’t forget producer Ross Petty is married to Karen Kain, one of Canada’s great ballerinas and now artistic director of the National Ballet of Canada.  As a young dancer, she shot to international fame by dancing exquisitely the demanding role of Aurora, partnered by the Russian great Rudolf Nureyev in his production of Tchaikovsky’s glorious “Sleeping Beauty” ballet.  Maybe she’ll appear in a cameo dancing the  ballet’s famed “Rose Adagio?”

It’s not the “Sleeping Beauty” story to which we are accustomed:

“Pining after Rose is her soft-spoken music teacher, and half-troll, Luke the Lutist.. SparkleBum, the long lost relative of PlumBum, will help Luke with his journey to find true love’s first kiss.

Previews begin this Friday, Nov. 25 and runs until Jan. 7th.

Here’s more:

Hilary Farr of HGTV’s “Love It or List It” will portray, the press material says, “the unfairest of fairies, dead set on renovating and re-designing the Kingdom of Torontonia in her own, grim image.”

A.J.’s Sleeping Beauty, the Princess Rose, is not satisfied with being beautiful and blessed with light and harmony.  With her friends, she is dedicated to help the kingdom’s less fortunate by “opening and ogre orphanage or unicorn sanctuary.”

James Daly, who co-starred in Niagara-on-the-Lake and Toronto in the universally hailed drama “Master Harold and the Boys” this summer and fall, plays Luke the lutist, “Rose’s shy music instructor who is part troll.  He doesn’t think he stands a chance with her Highness.

Paul Constable, well-known as Canadian Tire’s TV spokesman and an alum of Second City, is SparkleBum, “a good fairy in training who comes from a long line of Bums including PeachBum, the dreaded pirate BlueBum, and, of course, the legendary PlumBum. Eddie Glen, returning for his 14th Panto, portrays Evil Garden Gnome, aka EGG, but he prefers Exceptionally Great Guy.  He is the reluctant assistant to his malevolent mistress of the swamp, Hilary Farr’s character.

Rose’s dancing guardian angels and BFFs are Taveeta Szymanowicz and Alexandra Beaton, starring on Family Channel’s “The Next Step” among others.

Laurie Murdoch (“Once”) and 2016 Dora Award-winner Lisa Horner (“Grey Gardens”) play the King and Queen who dream of their daughter Rose’s happiness.

“Sleeping Beauty” is directed by Tracey Flye, choreographed by Julie Tomaino and written by Jeremy Diamond.  Set and costume design is by Michael Gianfrancesco with light design by Kimberly Purtell.

A.J. Bridel took a break from rehearsal to speak with us:

Q:  A.J., please tell us about your experience with “Sleeping Beauty.”

As kids, my sister and I would watch the Disney version of Sleeping Beauty often. It was one of our favorites. Now, it’s really a blast to be taking a childhood fairytale and living it out in a fun, modern way.

Q:  What is your take on the character?  She’s been rather passive in the past.  How different will your Sleeping Beauty be in your Ross Petty Production?  Will she be more assertive?  Do you put the “delirious” in “deliriously” dreamy (as it says in your ads)?

It’s important to find the strengths and weaknesses in every character I play.  That’s what makes them relatable and human. My take on Rose (Sleeping Beauty) is a young woman who just wants to break free of her limitations and live her life to the fullest. In our version, Rose falls into Dreamland where she finds herself delirious in behavior because she’s actually asleep and in a dream state. I don’t think it has anything to do with her strength in character. Rose is fierce!

Q: An important question – Is Prince Charming Sleeping Beauty’s latest in her “history of wrong guys,” as “Kinky Boots’” Lauren might observe?

It’s funny because I do see some similarities between Lauren and Rose. They both fall in love with a young man they’ve grown up with in a very unexpected way. I wouldn’t suggest Luke (Prince Charming) will fall under the Wrong Guy’s category. I’m sure Toronto will fall in love with him!

www.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=678575 - A.J. Bridel, The History of Wrong Guys from “Kinky Boots,” Canada AM, CTV 

Q:  You’ve got a great cast including James Daly, Hilary Farr and Eddie Glen.  James will be coming off that great Shaw Festival/Obsidian Theatre hit “Master Harold and the Boys” and Eddie, of course, will have just finished performing in Drayton Festival’s Terry Fox “Marathon of Hope” musical in St. Jacobs.

The cast is stacked! I feel very fortunate to be surrounded by beautiful, diverse talent. Everyone from the leading cast members to the incredible ensemble brings their “A” game. We’re also very lucky to have such a special creative team. Bob Foster, Tracey Flye and Julie Tomaino create magic!

Q:  You’ve performed in pantos in Drayton, playing Peter Pan and Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz?” I’m sure it’s a lot of fun. What’s it like for you?  Ross Petty’s pantos are known for scripts loaded with topical references – and you’ve got a lot of material this year with Justin Trudeau, Toronto Maple Leafs 100 – its Centennary, Hilary Clinton, Donald Trump, etc.  Any hints?

The show is definitely packed with pop culture references. It’s a blast to be in a show that enables so much freedom to reference specific jokes, videos, music, celebrities. It’s different every night!

Q: And finally, we’re just a little over two months away from 2017 and Canada – 150, our sesquicentennial.  With that in mind, how do you feel about Canada – what does it mean to you?

Now, more than ever, I am so proud to be Canadian. I feel so blessed to be a working artist in this beautiful country that I get to call home. There is a lot going on in the world right now, and I hope people find the time to enjoy themselves at the theatre. To laugh, sing, dance, cry and in our case, boo a little!


Playing Nov. 25/16 to Jan. 7/17

Opening night – Thursday, Dec. 1/16 at 7 p.m.

Most evening performances begin at 7 p.m. with matinees at 2 p.m.

Visit rosspetty.com for a complete performance schedule.

Ticket prices:

$27 to $99 Adults; $27 to $69 for children under 12

Family packs are available at $256.

For group discounts, call The Group Tix Company at 647-438-5559 or Toll-Free at 1-866-447-7849.

To purchase tickets, visit rosspetty.com or phone 1-855-599-9090

Tickets are also available at the Elgin Theatre Box office, 189 Yonge St., Toronto.

Stay connected with Ross Petty Productions

RossPettyPro/FB*RossPetty/YouTube*@theross petty*#SleepingBeautyTO

By Dennis Kucherawy

Last modified on Thursday, 24 November 2016 16:56
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