Okay, so some of the characters in Adelante Spanish Immersion School and San Carlos Children’s Theater’s cheeky take on “Sleeping Beauty and the Beast” may seem a bit out of place, but if you hold on and trust this talented group of young actors and their adult mentors, you’ll be taken on a fun ride through this mini-musical that opens Friday at the McKinley Middle School Theater.
The show, which features a cast of nearly 50 Adelante students, is written by Wade Bradford and directed by Eron Block of the San Carlos Children’s Theater (SCCT).
For dress rehersal photos, plus a video interview with some of the cast, click on the photos and video to the right.
This is the fourth year Block has teamed up with Adelante’s principal, Linda Montes, to put on a production that taps into the talents of students as young as kindergarten. But it’s the first mini-musical.
“We are bringing together the school’s various talents for this show,” said Block.
“Adelante has a thriving dance program and Music for Minors program, and under the direction of SCCT’s musical Theresa Ames, we have brought out the best in all of the kids.”
Everyone can participate
Sixth-grader Joseph King, who plays the Beast, agrees, “We’ve been rehearsing for two months now and I’m getting my lines down, but I still have some work to do. It’s been really fun, and I get to sing a duet with my brother—Copacabana!”
Adelante principal Linda Montes explained that the show is open to anyone at her school of 565 K-6 students.
“The only rule is that they must audition, and they will be cast in the show. The younger kids, grades K-2 are in the ensemble, and the older kids, grades 3-6 are in the main cast, “ said Montes.
Montes stressed that the play is not just for the kids.
“It’s truly a family event, “ she said.
“We believe in the performing arts at Adelante, and what they do for the child. This play is a great opportunity to help the kids get a well rounded education, and the parents participate by helping with costumes, set design, make-up---you name it.”
It's a family event
In fact, there were an equal number of parent volunteers working behind the scene during the cast’s dress rehearsals, also known as “tech week” in the days leading up to opening night.
Parent volunteer Lucy Lin’s daughter Seema plays a stepsister in the production, and Lin says it’s been a great experience both for her and her daughter.
“The parents are required to donate their time and help with the production---there’s so much to do and they’ve been practicing since September,” Lin said.
Jo Jackson’s two daughter’s are also in the play—Amy is in the ensemble, and Charlotte plays a palace member who seemed to enjoy having her stage make-up applied and trying on her colorful costume.
"So many people are involved in this production and everyone has a big part to play in bringing the show to life. The dedication of everyone involved is incredible. The cast, crew, production staff, and parent volunteers are working hard in preparation for Friday night’s opening performance, we are all working together as one big team," said Jackson.
If the play is an upside down fairytale, then the parent volunteers are all fairy godmothers who seamlessly keep the cast, crew and production staff breezing along in preparation for Friday night’s opening performance.
One parent noted that the transformation of the kids from typical students going to class and basketball practice to spreading their wings under the bright lights of the the big state has been simply amazing.
Andre Basso, who plays Puss-n-Boots, is a good example of Jackson’s observation.
“I play Puss-n-Boots---feline extraordinaire. I’m helping Prince Charmless save his sleeping beauty,” said the fourth-grader.
“The hardest part is remembering my lines and it’s surprising how weird the make-up feels, but I hope I do well, because that’s my life-long dream---to be an actor.”
Of course, what would a good fairy tale be without a princess or two? And that’s where Lourdes Arteaga as Princess Rose comes in.
“I’m a beautiful princess and it’s my birthday and I get cursed by a wicked fairy and Prince Charmless rescues me,” she said.
Director Eron Block says the kids learn a lot about themselves during tech week, especially about prioritizing and making decisions about how to schedule their time.
And it gives everyone a chance to shine says Montes, the school’s principal.
“Even students who may not be as successful academically can shine here,” says Montes.
Rita Melton who is the play’s producer and is a teacher at Adelante feels so strongly about her school’s partnership with SCCT that she hopes all students in Redwood City can have the experience.
“It levels the playing field and if you have a skill or a talent and you allow it to come through, it carries back into academics and everything else these kids do,” said Melton.
Director Block is hoping that everyone in the community will come to see “Sleeping Beauty and the Beast” this weekend---not just family members from the school.
“It’s laugh-out-loud funny with great music—and that’s what good children’s theatre should be. People who come to our shows love them and keep coming back,” said Block.
“As we say at San Carlos Children’s Theatre, it’s ‘where character grows.’”
“Sleeping Beauty and the Beast”
- Friday, Dec. 7 at 7 p.m.
- Saturday, Dec. 8 at 7 p.m.
- Sunday, Dec. 9 at 1:00 p.m.
- McKinley Middle School, 400 Duane St., in Redwood City
- Tickets are $8 in advance; $10 at the door; $15 reserved