Marsh youths follow bright path

What a wonderful idea for the holidays: a show about finding true meaning in life.

The execution is as good as the concept, as the Marsh Youth Theater proves with its positively inspirational production of “Siddhartha, The Bright Path” onstage through 2011 in San Francisco.

The original musical — book, music and lyrics by Emily Klion, Lisa Quoresimo, Danny Duncan and George Brooks — is based on the life of Buddhism founder Siddhartha Gautama, who was born into royalty but abandoned the riches of his youth in search of spiritual enlightenment.

In the show, Siddhartha’s ancient journey in India is paralleled by the present-day story of Chandra, an extraordinary teen who hungers for something more than designer clothes and a new iPad.

While the topic might sound slightly dry and serious, the show is anything but that.

Filled with bright, Eastern-flavored songs, wildly colorful costumes, a sparkling set and splashy production numbers — ranging from classic Kathak choreography to Bollywood-inspired dance — it’s an ongoing feast for all senses.

Quoresimo directs with flair, evoking delightful performances by the two-dozen member cast of youngsters who range from age 12 to 19. The lesser-experienced performers look as good as the more-seasoned actors, singers and dancers throughout the inventively staged show in which everyone’s a star.

While confident performances by Jens Ibsen as Prince Siddhartha and Maddie Bartolome as Chandra anchor the show, the versatile, appealingly multicultural ensemble — featuring some performers playing dual roles — really brings the piece to life.

It’s easy to see why the show, first performed in 2007 and even taken to India the same year, is now in its fifth production.

In program notes, Klion, director of the 10-year-old Marsh Youth Theater, says the show was created “to challenge its performers and audience to look at their own lives and find personal pathway to change the world for the better.”

The creators have done their job well, for “Siddhartha, The Bright Path” couldn’t be a more ideal antidote to the crass commercialism that characterizes the Christmas season.

Fun and meaningful for kids of all ages, it’s a Mission district experience that captures the true spirit of the holidays.

lkatz@sfexaminer.com

THEATER REVIEW

Siddhartha, the Bright Path

Presented by Marsh Youth Theater

Where: Marsh Studio Theater, 1074 Valencia St., San Francisco

When: 3 and 7:30 p.m. today, Dec. 30 and Jan. 8; 3 p.m. Dec. 27-29, Dec. 31, Jan. 2 and Jan. 9; 7:30 p.m. Jan. 7; closes Jan. 9 

Tickets: $10 to $35

Contact: (800) 838-3006, www.themarsh.org

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