The Silicon Valley Voice

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Roberta Jones Junior Theatre’s “Sleeping Beauty” Awakens the Inner Stars Inside Young Actors

During the June 7 dress rehearsal for Roberta Jones Junior Theatre’s (RJJT) “Sleeping Beauty Kids,” held at the Community Recreation Center, 37 young and spirited cast members performed the Disney-inspired story of how true love can reverse a curse.

In the musical, kind fairies raised Princess Aurora. Cursed and tricked by the spiteful fairy Maleficent, the princess pricked her finger and fell into a deep sleep. Breaking the spell was Prince Phillip, who woke the princess with true love’s kiss. The show ran from June 8-10.

Kevin Cornelius, Recreation Supervisor for the Santa Clara City Parks and Recreation Department, distinguished this June show from other RJJT shows performed during the year.

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“The show is 30 minutes and is intended to be for a young audience,” Cornelius said. “We also use the show as an opportunity to focus on our younger performers. The kids in this show are ages 7 to 15. It allows kids who are younger to play bigger roles than they normally would. This is our springboard theater production where younger people can take on bigger responsibilities.”

For Serena Van Scherpe, 14, who played Princess Aurora, singing the solo “Once Upon a Dream,” required independent memorization of lines coupled with vocal training.

“I have a lot more responsibilities with learning my lines, singing and managing my costume changes and props,” Van Scherpe said. “My favorite part of playing Princess Aurora was pricking my finger on the spindle of the spinning wheel.”

Garrett Davis, 11, who played Prince Phillip, showed the fruits of properly rehearsed choreography during a fight scene with Maleficent’s Goons.

“Playing Prince Phillip is a totally different role and experience than what I’d done at RJJT before,” Davis said. “Having a main speaking part, you have to put more into the show. You have more responsibility than if you had an ensemble part.”

Both Van Scherpe and Davis noted that the atmosphere for this springboard production — a shorter show — was more relaxed than the other RJJT productions — usually longer shows — performed during the rest of the year.

Years ago, Sofia Jakovcevic acted in a production of RJJT’s “Sleeping Beauty.” She played an owl and spoke her first line on stage, which was “who.” Since then, Jakovcevic took on bigger roles as a cast member. In 2016, this De Anza College student went on to direct the RJJT springboard show “Aladdin.” This spring, she continued to utilize her theater chops by directing “Sleeping Beauty.”

“RJJT does four shows a year,” Jakovcevic said. “In ‘Beauty and the Beast’ (the previous RJJT show), the majority of the leads were played by seniors in high school. These springboard shows allow younger children to find their own voice and their own place in our theater community.”

Visit rjjt.org for information about RJJT’s future shows and classes for ages 4 – 18.

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