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Review: Carlo Colla & Sons Marionette Company’s Sleeping Beauty at The New Victory Theater

Review:  Carlo Colla & Sons Marionette Company’s Sleeping Beauty at The New Victory Theater

The U.S. Premiere of Carlo Colla & Sons Marionette Company’s Sleeping Beauty, a timeless tale with strings attached, is happening now at The New Victory Theater in Times Square.  Three centuries of Italy’s rich cultural heritage are on dazzling display when Carlo Colla & Sons Marionette Company interprets Charles Perrault’s original 1697 fairy tale “The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood” which tells the tale of a princess and her 100 year sleep.  The play is set to Tchaikovsky’s ballet score and is a handmade production. 11 members of the company move the strings of the 165 three foot tall marionettes and they also carved them, painted their faces and designed the costumes and sets for the play.  The play is at The New Victory Theater for one more weekend on Saturday November 9th & Sunday November 10th.

I had the opportunity to see Sleeping Beauty this past weekend with my eight year old daughter.  When she was younger she was very interested in Princesses and so we know all the fairy tales and we were looking forward to seeing a marionette show!  We arrived early and went downstairs in the theater where they had books and puzzles for the children.  They also had a marionette on display in a glass case that my daughter got to check out up close.

We went upstairs and found our seats and had a chance to read the program and learned a lot about the Carlo Colla & Sons Marionette Company.  We learned the company is based in Milan, Italy and that they have toured five continents since 1980 and that Colla was at The New Victory Theater in 2007 with Macbeth.  My daughter is a big reader and she loved reading where the cast is from and how they celebrated their 16th birthdays.

The show started and we got to listen to Tchaikovsky’s beautiful ballet score and admire the gorgeous sets and the marionettes.  The marionette’s puppeteers or manipulators are working above the set and hidden from the audience with a curtain and it is amazing how the marionettes move around the stage and are able to use their arms to show a range of emotions!  My daughter’s favorite part was when the godmothers of Aurora were announcing their gifts for the Princess and they all did their own different dance.  In addition to all the beautiful costumes on the marionettes I really enjoyed all the details on the set.  My favorite part was how the castle got hidden away in the forest!

The play is 90 minutes long with one 15 minute intermission and it is aimed at children seven years and older.  When they have to lower the screen to change the sets during the show it did seem to take a little while and my daughter would get restless.  There were other younger children in the audience and they were definitely restless so if you have younger children you might want to take the length of the play into consideration.  The good news is The New Victory Theater has booster seats that are quite nice for the little audience members!

After the intermission there was a parade of puppets that were going to the wedding of Princess Aurora and Prince Desire and that was another exciting part of the show.  Some of the marionettes were easy to identify but some had us guessing and it was entertaining to see so many different characters come to life!  Then when the play was over they opened the top curtain so we could see the manipulators and give them a big round of applause for the enjoyable show.

There was a Q & A session after the show with Piero Corbella, Colla’s general manager, who joined the company when he was 12!  He answered questions about how long does it take to learn to work the marionettes. He has been doing it forty years and he is still learning!  Colla also has 3,000 puppets!  900 from the 19th century and over 2,000 were made in the last 30 years and over 8,000 costumes! Also it takes them about a year to create the show since everything is handmade!  We also got to see the other members of the company put away the puppets and fix the stage for the next show.

Overall my daughter and I really enjoyed the show and had a great time seeing it and discussing it over dinner and if Carlo Colla & Sons Marionette Company create a new show & come back to New York we would definitely go to see them!  I think a lot of children left the theater in awe and are dreaming of becoming puppet manipulators!

Carlo Colla & Sons Marionette Company’s Sleeping Beauty Synopsis

After the long-awaited birth of their child, Aurora, King Florestan XIV and Queen Dolivianne present her to the kingdom in a grand celebration. During the great festivities, six fairy godmothers bestow magical gifts upon the child, but Misery, an evil fairy who wasn’t invited to the celebration, arrives and casts a terrible spell on the young princess. Misery threatens that on Aurora’s 16th birthday, the princess will prick her finger and die. Once Misery leaves, the good fairy Harmony appears and says that she can change the effects of the spell so that instead of dying, Aurora will fall into a deep sleep for 100 years until the kiss of a handsome prince ends the curse.

Aurora grows to be 16 and prepares to meet her suitors. An old woman (who is Misery in disguise) sneaks into the garden where Aurora is getting ready and presents her with a rose. Aurora pricks her finger on one of its thorns and falls into a deep sleep. The King immediately sends for Harmony who tells him to gather all of the palace damsels and lords together. With the whole court assembled, Harmony puts the entire kingdom to sleep to await Aurora’s awakening.

One hundred years later, Prince Desire stumbles upon the castle and learns of its story from local peasants who tell him that a prince is prophesied to break the spell. Determined to awaken the beautiful Aurora, the prince heads into the castle. On his way, an old woman (again Misery in disguise) greets him. She tells him that the peasants are evil spirits and that she has a magical potion that can make the spirits disappear. As the prince is about to drink the potion, three sylphs (mythological creatures that aid Harmony) disguised as an old man knock the drink away. Misery reveals her true self and is about to attack the prince when Harmony appears. Harmony tells the prince to rescue Aurora while she seizes Misery. Prince Desire heads to his princess and, upon a kiss, she and the entire kingdom wake up. The town rejoices and they all live happily ever after.

Details:  New Victory Theater is located at 209 West 42nd Street.  See the Theater website for showtimes and to buy tickets.

(Disclosure: I received complimentary tickets to review the show but I was not financially compensated in any way.  The opinions expressed are my own.)

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