Newbery Medal-winner Laura Amy Schlitz’s children’s book The Night Fairy comes to magical life on the stage of the Julianne Argyros Stage at South Coast Repertory, the latest in their popular Theatre For Young Audiences series, and a crowd-pleaser for children of all ages.

nightmini1sm Don’t let the words Theatre For Young Audiences fool you. South Coast Repertory’s TYA productions are treats regardless of how young or old you are. True, most audience members over the age of twelve are probably there as chaperones, but fear not. In terms of on-and-offstage talent, these shows can’t be beat, and even adults who cringe at the idea of seeing anything G-rated will likely have a great time, with or without kids in tow.

John Glore’s dramatization of Schiltz’s book (illustrated by Angela Barrett) introduces us to Flory (Emily Yetter), a feisty night sprite whose ill-fated encounter with a bat has left her wingless and forced to survive in the sunlight, a feat more easily said than done.

Danger lurks everywhere, with predators like Spider (Moira MacDonald*) and Raccoon (Sol Castillo*) her most dangerous foes, but even a squirrel like Skuggle (Nicholas Mongiardo-Cooper*) presents problems, not that he has any interest in eating fairy for lunch.

nightpro6sm Skuggle proves problematic out of pure selfishness, for this is one me-minded squirrel. (“What, do you want me to share? Squirrels don’t share.” “I don’t feel like carrying you now. I’m hungry.”) Still, as Skuggle soon discovers, two heads (and hearts) are indeed better than one, as he and Flory learns valuable life lessons in cooperation, empathy, and love, both fraternal and maternal.

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Other characters include Wren (MacDonald*), who first warns Flory about fairy-hunters like “cats, and owls, and cats, and possums, and cats, and badgers, and …” and Hummingbird (Catherine Adell*), trapped in a spider’s web and desperately needing Flory to warm her eggs (thereby keeping the chicks inside from dying) and then to set her free, in return for which she will allow the wingless Flory to fly on her back.

nightpro3sm Last, but not least, there’s Bat (Jonathan Williams*), who teaches Flory the wisdom of never judging a rodent by his wings.

Directed with a feather-light touch by Oanh Nguyen, The Night Fairy features two stellar lead performances—the enchanting, pixyish Yetter and the adorable, teddy-bear-like Mongiardo-Cooper—as the most delightful and loveable odd couple of fairytale creatures ever.

The terrific human quartet of Adell, Castillo, MacDonald, and Williams both voice and manipulate their magical Beth Peterson-designed puppets to perfection.

nightpro4sm Set and costume designer Sara Ryung Clement, lighting/co-projection designer Matt Schleicher, and sound designer/co-projection designer Dave Mickey join forces to create a world of wonder and enchantment sure to draw children into Flory’s story and perhaps even make them theatergoers for life.

Kelly L. Miller is dramaturg, Jackie S. Hill is production manager, and Sue Karutz is stage manager.

South Coast Rep’s TYA productions are short enough (this one’s about an hour five plus a fifteen-minute intermission for snacks and restroom visits) that neither adults nor kids should feel antsy, and the cast awaits the children outside for photos and autographs.

I can’t think of a better present for parents to give their children than the gift of live theater, and nowhere in Southern California is there better theater for young audiences than South Coast Rep’s Theatre For Young Audiences series. The Night Fairy brings SCR’s 2012-2013 TFYA season to an enchanting finish.

*and puppet

South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa.

–Steven Stanley
June 1, 2013
Photos: Debra Robinson/SCR

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