Arts review by James Karas
Young People’s Theatre has come up with the inspired idea of staging some of Robert Munsch’s children’s stories for youngsters from 4 to 8 years of age. Stephen Colella and YPT’s Artistic Director Allen MacInnis have adapted five stories to be acted by three actors. Cheri Maracle, Dov Mickelson and Lisa Nasson play the various roles in the stories.
The stage has a minimal set and everything depends on the story-telling and representation of the actors. We see Pigs, the story of the young Megan who is told to feed the pigs but not to let them out. Of course, she does and the pigs which she considers dumb and ugly, invade her world.
The story has its charm, its humour and the underlying lesson. The children in the audience had settled down and all of them seemed to be watching a familiar story acted out. The charm and the lesson were there but there was not a lot of laughs being generated.
Murmel, Murmel, Murmel tells the story of little Robin who finds a baby in the hole of her sandbox. She goes around trying to give it to someone to take care of it but nobody wants the baby. It seems to be no good to anyone until she meets a truck driver who has lots of trucks but no baby. He takes the baby and gives Robin his truck. Charming.
Love You Forever is a very moving story about maternal love from the birth of her son, through growing up, old age, death and the next generation. The love that the mother feels for her child permeates the story through all of life’s changes until her death and the beginning of the next generation as her son hugs his own child and begins to love him forever. A wonderful story.
A Promise is a Promise is about monsters who live under the ice. A child promises to go fishing in the lake but disobeys and goes fishing under the ice on the sea in Canada’s north. She starts fishing in the cracks in the sea. She is grabbed by the monsters and pulled under the ice. She is eventually saved, of course, through parental wisdom and intervention.
Too Much Stuff! is about the child that has just that and wants to bring it with her on the plane. She stuffs her backpack with toys against her parents’ advice with the inevitable results.
Maracle, Mickeslon and Nasson go through quick role and costume changes in front of an audience that seemed to know the stories. I felt that the children in the audience were primed for laughter and there was very little in the performances to make them laugh.
For many children this may well have been the first or one of the first times in the theatre and kudos to YPT for choosing familiar stories to introduce the future generation of theatrephiles to the great art.
Munschtime adapted by Stephen Colella and Allen MacInnis from the stories by Robert Munsch and directed by Herbie Barnes continues until May 14, 2017 at the Young People’s Theatre, 165 Front Street East, Toronto, Ontario. 416 862-2222. www.youngpeoplestheatre.ca