Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Sleeping Beauty

We have left the Lake known as Svanesøen, and are preparing to enter into a 100-year nap: Christopher Wheeldon's new Tornerose. In plain English, this is Sleeping Beauty. (And in my personal English circa when-I-was-two, due to pronunciation problems, it was known as "Sleeping Doody," but that's just some potty humor for you.) Probably one of the most beloved and well-known story ballets, it is very exciting to be involved in an updated version of a storied classic. Christopher Wheeldon is adding some twists and updates of his own, but I won't spoil the surprise. Instead, I'm here to give a little summary of the basic fairy tale version we all grew up with...

Once upon a time, there was a magical kingdom. All the best fairy tales involve royalty (and, in my opinion, unicorns, but even though this one doesn't have any, it's still pretty good so stick with this). The King and Queen of this kingdom get down to their royal business and make a beautiful pooping, crying toy more commonly known as a baby. A baby girl, to be precise, named Aurora. The sort of name which brings to mind sparkly things and daisy chains and rainbows and yes, unicorns. (Actually, the story says she is named after "the dawn," but whatever.) And because the King and Queen are respectable royal people--who, let's face it, love an excuse to throw a good party--they decide to hold a big Christening for their new bundle of joy. Everyone's invited, including some very special, extra-sparkly guests: the Fairies, led by the Lilac lady. See, the King and Queen are super well-connected, and the Fairies are important. You want them at your baby's Christening. Because even though their names are ridiculous (in this version, Beauty, Grace, Knowledge, Song, Temperament, and Dance; translate into Danish at your own risk!) and thus a bitch to write on the place cards, this bunch gives really good baby presents. Seriously, they'll make your kid sort of fabulous.

Anyway. The Christening is on. The Court is celebrating the new Princess, and the fairies are (literally) flitting about, hither and yon, giving out their presents. Everyone is having a fantastic time; this might be the most fun baptism ever. And then the Big Sack of Crazy crashes the baby bash. The BSoC being the evil fairy Carabosse--sort of the Wicked Witch of the West to the Lilac Fairy's Glinda. Carabosse is not happy. Girl loves a party, and SOMEONE forgot to invite her to this one, which happens to be a biggie. But instead of doing the normal thing and getting wasted and maybe giving a somewhat crude, socially awkward speech at the dinner like any sane uninvited guest would, Carabosse has to go one step further. She has to give a gift, and she has to make that gift totally awful and ruin everybody's fiesta, and also screw up the innocent baby Aurora's life. Which doesn't really seem fair, given that despite all the gifts she's getting, one thing Aurora still lacks is the ability to hold a pen (or quill) and write invitations. It's not her fault, but Carabosse doesn't see it this way, and so her gift to Aurora is that sixteen years from now on her birthday, the Princess will prick her finger on a spindle and die. (Carabosse really knows how to kill a mood. And, apparently, children.) Of course everyone totally freaks out. This is turning into the worst Christening ever. But the Lilac Fairy is all cool as a cucumber and comes up with a solution. She can't undo the curse, which doesn't seem fair to me but whatever, but she can alter it. Princess Aurora will prick her finger on a spindle on her sixteenth birthday, but she won't die. She will just fall asleep for 100 years until wakened by the kiss of a prince. Shockingly (to me), everyone accepts the idea of taking a giant coma sixteen years from now, and Carabosse leaves in a big evil huff. Then the King orders all spindles and needles and sharp things in the whole kingdom to be burned, hoping that will help. Obviously it won't, and clothing is just going to be that much harder to make for the next decade and a half, but the people do it because he's the King and he said so.

Fast forward sixteen years. It's Aurora's birthday, and finally she's getting a party she'll remember. Before, y'know, the Big Nap. Villagers are dancing around with garlands; the Princess and her friends are stupidly playing with roses--hello, Cursed Baby, thorns are spiny!; and the King and Queen present their baby girl with four eligible stud muffins, by which I mean princes. (And to think, all I got for MY sweet sixteen was permission to adopt an adorable mutt from a Harlem dog shelter.) The princes are beautiful and hail from exotic lands, which of course means they're unoriginal and completely unaware that this pretty young thing is not allowed near anything sharp: they all give her roses. Aurora's easily pleased, being a generally happy-go-lucky sort of gal, so she's having a grand old time. And then she gets a creepy present from a disguised guest. It's--wait for it!--a spindle. Aurora's all intrigued, but I gotta say, if someone gave me a GIANT NEEDLE on my birthday, I might wonder about their motives. But it's not my party, so I can't argue (or cry if I want to). Her parentals are freaking out, with good reason, but Aurora's sixteen now. And we've all been there: when you're sixteen, you know everything and are in fact superhuman and can't get hurt. So the Princess ignores her parents and dances around with the spindle before accidentally pricking her finger on it. No one says "I told you so" even though this would be an entirely appropriate time to do so, but I mean come on, everyone's thinking it. Turns out the disguised guest was Carabosse, that sly fox, but she hightails it outta there before the studs in tights (aka the princes) can fight her. And at the perfect moment, the Lilac Fairy appears. (She knows all about being fashionably late.) She reminds the kingdom: "Guys, I fixed this sixteen years ago. Seriously, you don't remember this?" Then she casts a slumber spell over the entire kingdom so that they will only wake up when Aurora does, and everybody falls asleep for a really, really, enviably long nap.

So. Everyone's taking a quick coma. And during the snooze, we meet Prince Desire. (Yes, that's actually his name. I know.) He's the one, the good kisser who's going to wake up the Princess and save the day. He sees this in a vision, put upon him by the Lilac Fairy. In the vision, he's in a forest surrounded by sparkly perky ladies in nymph form, and through them all comes Aurora. She's something of a babe, and Desire is all obsessed with her after this vision. So he does his thing, going through the vines and nature crap that have grown around the castle over the past century, fighting the shrubbery and mossy madness (oh and Carabosse), until he finds her: the Sleeping Beauty (hello, title moment!). And in the easiest part of his journey, he goes over and plants a big wet one on the Princess. She wakes up, followed by the rest of the kingdom. Everyone's a little groggy and covered in cobwebs and probably has a mean case of morning breath and eye boogies, but other than that they all look damn hot for having been in a 100-year nap. (And more importantly, no one seems to have suffered any major brain damage!) Desire and Aurora waste no time. They're like in "move-in-with-me" phase within a few minutes, and declare their love for each other, which is a little fast for my personal taste but I mean, to each his own right? The King and Queen are just happy this strapping young lad woke everybody up on time, and of course they give their blessing. Wedding preparations begin immediately--kudos to this kingdom for party-planning efficiency.

Wedding Day: there's a literal menagerie of guests. Everyone and their mother is invited, plus birds and cats and fairies and all that. Special guests perform for the new couple; court people are dancing; everyone is in hot sparkly royal outfits; and Desire and Aurora are totally that lovey-dovey-we-literally-just-met-but-it's-true-love couple that everyone loves and secretly also hates just a little. Third time's the charm, since at this party, no one gets cursed and no one goes into a coma. The whole thing is a rousing success, the King and Queen can finally take that vacation to Rio they'd been meaning to go on forever, and they all live happily ever after.

Christopher Wheeldon's Tornerose is a bit different from this traditional sequence of events. But I'm not going to let the cat out of the bag, and you get the gist. It's a fairy tale in every sense of the word, with beautiful Tchaikovsky music (and wonderful new costumes and sets by Jerome Kaplan). The only thing that's missing? Unicorns. But I can get over that easily enough--fairies are pretty damn magical, too.


Shelby said...

Could not have put it better myself.... you rock.

rlcsurf said...

You are a fabulous writer. Do you dance even better than you write? I really appreciate your posts, especially when I'm in need of a smile.