By Lynn Geyer
In 1910, Igor Stravinsky composed the ballet,”The Firebird” sourcing ancient Russian folklore. The ballet was a success and the tales have endured. They now grace the stage of Pierce College Theatre in the form of a dramatic fairy tale, “Jarpteetza, The Firebird” by R. N. Sandberg.
This venture into the land of enchantment, witches and demons is a truly charming experience made possible by the efforts of Director Patrick Daugherty.
Daugherty has assembled an ensemble cast of students to tell the story of Prince Ivan’s (Abigail Slusher) search for his love, Vasilisa (Jasmine Wright, also the choreographer), who has been kidnapped by Kashei the Immortal (Hercules Gumabon) and is being held in his nether world. Ivan is assisted in his search to reunite with his love by her sister Maria the Skillful (Sarah Carlson), Skomorokh the Clown (Youdinghuan David Chen) and Ilya Muromyetz the Strong Man (Zach Ingalls).
Along the way, they meet many obstacles in the form of Baba-Yaga the Witch (Masar Cooper), Solovei the Robber (Chelsea Moorman), Leshi the Tree Demon (Charles McDonald) and Vadyanaya the Swamp Demon (Micah Ingalls).
During the search, Vasilisa is magically transformed into the Firebird (Bethany Pancho) who holds the solution to the plight of the Russian people.
Others in the cast include Mark Yarin as Anton, Kaz Foster as Rurik, Stanton Reaves as Fyodor, Chante Williams as Tatiana and Naomi Barrett as Nikita.
Four of the roles are double cast; on alternant nights, Cooper plays Ttiana, Pancho is Vasilisa, Wright is and The Firebird and Williams is Baba-Yaga the Witch.
As a whole, the cast is very good. However, many stand out for various reasons.
In a bold stroke of gender bending casting, Daugherty has Slusher playing the prince. She does so with aplomb, her actions nor voice never betraying her sex. Chen is a hoot as the cowardly clown. Ingalls is lovably innocent as Ilya. Gumabon is a strong presence as the villain. Moorman exhibits a wide range of motions and vocal prowess as the Robber. Cooper is appropriately two-faced as the witch.
Pancho is exquisite, graceful and utterly charming as the Firebird.
The cast as a whole have mastered enough of the Russian dialect to make it believable thanks to coach Marina Anton. Dr. Kenneth Owen is the music director and accompanist; Kelly Doran designed the set. The costumes are superbly done by JoAnne Kirley and Geoffrey Alm is the Fight Master. Jason Wilson adds to the enchantment by providing the flying direction.
The audience is entertained before the start of the production by the dulcet tones of Storm Tucker on guitar and Jeremy Herrin on bongo drums.
The whole production makes for an extremely entertaining evening of theatre for an embarrassing modest price: $3 general admission and $2 for students, seniors and military.
This production is suitable for the whole family. However, if bringing very young children, please advise them that there is sudden, loud noise and fighting so they won’t be startled.
Remaining performances are February 25 and 26 at 7 p.m. in Studio 320 in the Cascade Building on the Fort Steilacoom campus at 9401 Farwest Drive in Lakewood. Reservations may be made by calling the theatre at (253) 964-6710.
“Jarpteetza, The Firebird” is an enthralling production — a delight to the eye and ear, which, unfortunately, has an extremely short run. Catch it quick before it flies away