SOUTH SALT LAKE CITY — “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair!” Everyone knows the line and the story, so the actual plot of Utah Children’s Theatre’s Rapunzel is nothing new. What sets this production apart, however, is the way the familiar fairytale is brought to life, allowing children and children at heart to be immersed in the world of the girl with the long, golden hair.
The main quality that kept UCT’s play from falling flat is the energy and commitment of the actors. Director Meighan Smith did a great job taking the (uncredited) script, shaping the cast to work together, and focusing on the audience members that matter most—the children. The actors played to the kids, from silly moments like when Mother Gothel farts (my seven-year-old son appreciated that one) to relatable moments, such as the over-the-top excitement of making a friend during Rapunzel and Evan’s first meeting in the woods.
With just a five-person cast, the success of Rapunzel relied heavily on every single cast member. Though playing the villain, Robert Fernandez was my favorite of the night as he fully embraced both the humor and horror of Mother Gothel. The funniest parts in the play happened thanks to Fernandez’s Gothel, which included well-delivered, snarky asides and physical humor, such as fainting and walking in an “old lady” manner. The scariest parts of the play also happened thanks to Mother Gothel’s character, and Fernandez didn’t hold back from portraying all the horrible meanness of a baby-stealing witch who locks little girls in towers. Gothel was particularly evil in a scene in which she emotionally sabotages Rapunzel in order to garner more of her tears.
This fairytale couldn’t work without a strong protagonist and Angie Sarkisyan’s Rapunzel was just that. Sarkisyan played Rapunzel with the energy and bounce of an excitable child—walking on her tip-toes, spinning and leaping around, talking in an overloud voice, and using exaggerated facial expressions. Sarkisyan shined at conveying Rapunzel’s child-like innocence—particularly in the scene in which Rapunzel finally meets her first friend, Evan, played by Taylor J. Smith. Smith’s Evan is a match to Sarkisyan’s Rapunzel, as Smith also plays his character with the energy and enthusiasm of a child.
Classic princess-story styled costumes (designed by Cathy Maurer) also helped create the fairytale atmosphere. In this version of the play, Rapunzel’s real parents are the King and Queen, and their costumes bespoke royalty—with loads of rich fabrics, shimmer, and gold. Rapunzel herself was barefoot and wearing a peasant dress and Mother Gothel wore layers that hinted at the styling of a gypsy witch.
Artistic director Joanne M. Parker and production designer James B. Parker kept the set simple—just the black box with risers. For each scene, appropriate and simple set pieces were brought on to create the setting, from a few plants for Gothel’s garden, to a couple of chairs and a cradle for the palace nursery. The one large set piece of the night, the ever-important tower, was just as a child would imagine it—foreboding but magical. A hidden ladder on the side of the tower allowed for the ever-important illusion of climbing up Rapunzel’s hair.
Overall, this show was a fun one for the whole family, though the intensity of parts of the storyline—a dramatic lighting sequence in which Mother Gothel taunts a crying Rapunzel; Mother Gothel cursing several individuals with blindness; a sword and axe fight—may make the show a little scary for sensitive young viewers. That warning aside, if you’re looking for an entertaining play for the entire family, UCT’s Rapunzel is the show to see.
Rapunzel plays every Friday at 7 PM and Saturday at 1 PM and 4:30 PM through December 6 at the Utah Children’s Theatre (3605 South State Street, South Salt Lake City). Tickets are $10-14. For more information, visit uctheatre.org.