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Dream and laugh with Sleeping Beauty

(From left) Kaleigh Polderman plays Princess Beauty, Brandalyn Mescas as Prince Jabulani from Africa and Steve Bradley is Queen Camilla, the traditional pantomime “Dame” in SPECC-tacular Productions Sleeping Beauty, which opens at the ACT next week. - Colleen Flanagan/The News
(From left) Kaleigh Polderman plays Princess Beauty, Brandalyn Mescas as Prince Jabulani from Africa and Steve Bradley is Queen Camilla, the traditional pantomime “Dame” in SPECC-tacular Productions Sleeping Beauty, which opens at the ACT next week.
— image credit: Colleen Flanagan/The News

Kaleigh Polderman sucks in her belly in an effort to make her voice squeak.

Finding just the right pitch is essential to transform into Princess Beauty.

There's a fine balance between sounded like a dainty, royal heir and Minnie Mouse.

"I've had to try different voices," says Polderman, who plays the slumbering princess in SPECC-tacular Productions Christmas pantomime Sleeping Beauty.

The 18-year-old caught the acting bug in her last year of high school when she was cast in the Garibaldi secondary musical Legally Blonde.

She auditioned for Sleeping Beauty on a whim, mistaking it for the Disney cartoon classic with its happily-ever-after ending and catchy songs.

"On the first day of practice I thought this isn't Disney. What's going on here?," says Polderman, with a laugh.

A love-struck princess, Polderman's Beauty is a cross between the Princess Buttercup from the movie the Princess Bride and her Disney progenitors.

"I'm just really happy all the time," says Polderman.

That's what happens when you have a good sleep.

"100 years is a lot of beauty rest," she adds.

A Christmas tradition in the U.K. and its former colonies, pantomime is a peculiarly British tradition of winter musical theatre.

Pantos are as much a part of Christmas as elves, Santa and turkey. They are a wonderful mix of song, dance, comedy, slapstick, magic, innuendo-riddled word-play, cross-dressing, and of course, audience participation.

Although Derek Boe lapses into a clipped Cockney accent somewhat unconsciously, he's never seen a panto himself.

As FixIt, the palace handy man, he's an integral part of panto formula - one of the characters who drums up laughs and boos from the audiences.

Boe's FixIt weaves an interesting and funny tale about everyone and everything that goes on the kingdom. He's cheeky but not very good at telling jokes.

"He's more the person who does something and it's ends up being funny because he doesn't realize what's going on," explain Boe, 16.

With lavish sets created by Susan Crape, beautiful costumes by Julie Milroy, brilliant musical numbers, amazing illusions and lots of comedy, SPECC-tacular promises that Sleeping Beauty will be their funniest and most magical pantomime yet.

The show is adapted and directed by Ed Marshall, with choreography and dancers by Susan Mitchell of The Maple Ridge Dance Circle.

As musical director, Su Wolfe has chosen a slew of modern toe-tapping, finger-snapping ditties that set the pace of the show.

As Prince Jabulani from Africa, Port Coquitlam's Brandalyn Mescas has had to shed her feminine wiles.

"That's been a little hard," says Mescas, whose been acting since she was a child.

At first, she embodied a macho, gruff-voiced prince. A character she was forced to kill for being too much like a man.

The panto prince, who is always played by pretty, feminine woman, has to walk a fine line.

"It's only just recently that I've finally figured it out," says Mescas, part of a cast of more 60 who have been practising three times a week since September.

"I'm kind of this dry, good humoured prince. So you have to be very strict with your face and be very serious all the time. I'm the character who sets up all the jokes for the other characters," she explains.

But keeping a straight face has been rather hard for Mescas, who is paired with Steve Bradley - the pantos Dame Queen Camilla, who is constantly cracking jokes and trying to trick his cast mates into slipping up.

A seasoned amateur actor whose played Bill Sykes in Oliver and Bob Crachet in The Christmas Carol, Bradley has coveted the role of the "Dame" since he was a child growing up near Birmingham in the U.K.

A traditional panto character, the dame is a continuation of en travesti portrayal of female characters by male actors in drag. They are common not only in panto but opera and ballet.

"A lot of the good British comics always played the Dame," says Bradley who is taking his cues from the British actor George Lacy, who was regarded as one of the greatest dames of his era.

Bradley spends rehearsals in a triple-D bra, a huge hooped skirt, size 15 gold pumps and a wig that makes him seven feet tall.

He's perfected the soft, lady-like swaying, falsetto voice and effeminate wrist-flick.

"When you switch the roles with gender it allows for all this comedy to happen," he says.

Supporting cast

• King Charlie: Chris Foster

• The Evil Fairy  - Carbolic: Su Wolfe

• The Good Fairy Queen - Ariel: Pauline De Silva

• Agent Blue: Aisha Flello

• Agent Orange: Tamsin Davies

• Agent Green: Halia Hirniak

• Prince Harry:Mark Darville

• Prince William: Abeline Watkins

• Head Fairy - Persil: Lynsey Teasdale

• Lord High Chamberlain: Jeff Hacker

• Court Jester: Grant Frend

• Handmaid: Zoe Zahir

• Hobgoblins: Sam Watkins, Brandon Goodridge and Emma Hacker

• Fairies: Jaelyn Frend, Anna Hendry, Caity Bossoms, Cassidy Stanley-Smith, Ella Treleaven, Samantha Laverton and Savannah McIntyre.

• Singers: Derek Barnett, Tegan, Holly and Cindy Krauchi, Sandi Bossoms, Laurel Hickman, Simon Challenger, Kaitlyn Dyer, Shelly Craig, Joyce Gillespie and Kaite Allinger.

Showtime

Sleeping Beauty plays the the ACT in Maple Ridge Tues. Dec. 11 to Sat. Dec. 15, at 7:30 p.m.  Saturday, Dec. 15 matinee at 1:00 pm and show at 6:00 pm. For tickets, call 604-476-2787 or order online at actmapleridge.org.

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