There’s a reason why Ross Petty‘s holiday pantomimes are a treasured annual tradition (their 19th year!) there’s nothing quite like it for geared-to-children but still lots-for-the-adults theatrical fun. I was delighted when the Yummy Mummy Club gifted us tickets to this year’s production, Cinderella, The Gags to Riches Family Musical – I knew it would deliver lots of high-energy entertainment and that my three boys would totally enjoy it.
It’s not everyday that a parent can, with complete comfort and a warm sense of welcome, take an 8, 6 and 3 year old to a two hour show at the glorious Elgin Theatre. This alone was a huge treat, but there’s a lot more to this particular kind of adventure. If you’re looking for a special holiday present, one that focuses on experiences that last rather than things that don’t, check out the show. Here’s why:
1. The show takes the art of silliness to new heights. There are few tones of distress in the show (which is nice for sensitive viewers) largely because the villains are preposterous. Patty Sullivan and Cleopatra Williams portray the punky step-sisters as perfectly pestering and Ross Petty himself is in top form as Cinderella’s evil stepmother. Together with Dan Chameroy as fairy godmother Plumbum, the two actors offer strapping renditions of these maternal characters – their towering, absurd presence on the stage provides a backdrop of humour even when they’re not centre stage.
2. There’s magic too. Spoiler alert, okay? There’s a lot of goofy, slapstick humour in the show, but there is also some stardust. The apex of these is Cinderella’s transportation to the ball. Two small white horses pull a spherical carriage onstage, and it really is an apparition, a moment of wonder.
3. The show is Canadian! Ross Petty purposely focuses on great Canadian talent, including the inimitable Danielle Wade, star of CBC’s Over the Rainbow and the Mirvish production of The Wizard of Oz. Also, the show is set in Toronto and full of references to our great city – the great ball is held at none other than Casa Loma. Lots of jokes poke fun at local politics and culture (pretty sure I caught a poke at Ford Nation, among others).
4. There’s something for everyone. In addition to the adult humour just mentioned, there’s lots here for the boys as well as the girls in the audience. The princess theme is still there but muted, and the gags are for everyone. Recall the evil step-mother and the fairy godmother when considering the dissolution of boundaries, which the show does left, right, and centre. Did I mention that Cinderella is trying to save her father’s Farmer’s Market from her step-family’s plans to overtake it with processed hypno-chips?
5. Children are VIPs here. Not only do you not have to worry about shushing your kids, you’ll be encouraging them to cheer and boo! Petty-the-stepmother cannot take two steps on stage without being booed down, and responds to the audience for some direct theatrical interaction. A few lucky kids climbed onstage and were interviewed for the show. Some of the younger audience members were flopping around in their chairs, especially after intermission, and it was just fine. Also, booster seats are available downstairs at the coat check – two of my kids used those (although one ended up on my lap in the end – also just fine (no one’s view was blocked)).
6. You Get to Introduce Your Kids to the Theatre. The Elgin Theatre is gorgeous and grand. It was not designed with children in mind, and the opportunity to expose our kids to that kind of venue is a big thing. I wish I’d taken more time to point out details of the theatre – the balconies, where the orchestra sits, the way the curtains fall, the art on the ceilings – but I was outnumbered three to one so I’m not going to dwell. Even so, my boys knew they were somewhere special; their eyes were wide open and took everything in.
I watched my kids during the show (of course). My favourite moment of the night was when my six year old tugged my sleeve and then clapped his hands lightly together with the tips of his fingers pointed upward. This is my theatre clap,” he explained.
That moment, along with my eight year old proclaiming on the way home that he’d like to see Cinderella again, holds the essence of the night for me. It was fun and entertaining, and it was a beginning. If my boys go to the theatre more often because of it – and dare I hope, maybe even sometimes with me – it really will be the best show in town.
Cinderella, The Gags to Riches Family Musical! will be live on stage at the Elgin Theatre in Toronto until January 4, 2015. Tickets range from $85 to $27 and are available online and through the Elgin Theatre box office. Special discount codes available for Yummy Mummy Club members here.