Friday, December 10, 2010

Fairy Tale Ending Review

[NOTE: This was originally posted on Allvoices.com in August. I've decided to re-post this here because I really enjoyed this play, and it's going to be playing January 5-16 in Toronto. Details here for anyone interested.]

“Fairy Tale Ending” was featured by the Toronto Fringe Festival “Best of Fringe Uptown” festival. This play, originally written for Toronto Youth Theatre and produced by the same, was originally featured in ‘FringeKids!’ this summer, and reportedly had a sell-out run during it. The final performance was on Saturday, July 31st, and was performed at The Toronto Centre for the Arts, presented by Roll Your Own Theatre.

Written by Kieren MacMillan and Jeremy Hutton, this play revolves around a young girl named Jill who acts as a narrator and as a focal point for the play. She, along with the fairy tale police, confront three infamous villains from bedtime stories about how the stories they star in are changing their plotlines to rather darker conclusions of the original stories. The themes of coping with loss and maturation are very prevalent and really touching.

While the cast was not totally complete during the final showing, Christina Gordon having to miss the performance due to a conflict of schedules, Jeremy Hutton was able to step in and take over the part of the Cop that is in charge of the three fairy tale cases that the play explores. As one of the writers, he did an admirable job in taking over the part, only a few faltered lines betraying the fact that he was not the usual actor for the part.

Using simple, versatile set pieces, transitions were smooth and easy, scene changes happening in moments. The same was done with the characters costumes-the difference between pigs, bears, and goats is all in what kind of hat is worn at the time. The set pieces used did work very well, all purposefully in a very clean-cut kind of theme to extend the fairy tale setting even further, with white picket fences and free-standing doors that wouldn’t look out of place on the front of any calm suburban household.

Adrian Shepherd-Gawinski, Carl Swanson, and Mike Wisniowski, as the sets of three used for each story were also splendid with their character transitions. The pig characters were different from the bears, goats and mice, and each time all three of the actors were completely committed to their roles. And when they acted as the back-up vocals, they were really splendid, with infectious energy and a well-practiced harmony to their voices.

One would be remiss in reviewing this performance without mentioning Max Shkvorets' wonderful, scene-stealing portrayal of Jack. The “infamous” Jack is played wonderfully as an irrepressible young boy, making the other characters reaction to him perfectly incongruous to his appearance and behaviour.

Personally, I enjoyed this play to the hilt. Of course, I’m a sucker for two things present in this play: twists on fairy tales, and villain songs. I love villain songs, and this musical doesn’t just have one or two, it has four. Each of the antagonists have their own song, with the Three providing back-up vocals, and they have one song that they all sing together, which is rather fittingly entitled ‘Villainy.’ ‘Addicted,’ sung by the Big Bad Wolf (Australian-born Andrew Moyes), ‘I Totally Don’t Even Give A Care,’ sung by Goldilocks (Jennifer Walls, who was on the CBC program ‘How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?), and ‘Gruff Exterior’ sung by Troll (Amanda Leigh, who played Cosette in Les Miserables during a UK National Tour) are all great songs, showcasing the vocal talents of these members of the cast very well.

Kieren Macmillan and Jamie Drake, on keyboard and percussion respectively provided great music, never noticeably missing a cue or making a mistake. The music, even outside of the musical numbers, provided an important element of the mood of the scenes, and the play would have a bit flatter without it.

Meagan Tuck as Jill was great, pulling off a character that was simultaneous childlike, na├»ve, trusting, and conflicted and growing up through that conflict before the audience’s eyes. By the end of the play, the growth of Jill was apparent in Ms. Tuck’s expression and voice during the finale song as she comes to understand why the fairy tales were changing.

Overall, this was a great performance, and I regret not attending one of their earlier ones, as I would have liked to see it again, and take some of my younger relatives as well. This is a play that has definite entertainment value for both generations, jokes that hit very well with the children, (“The golden goose produces only poo”) and jokes/references that fly over their heads and hit the adults (“Pocahontas died of smallpox”). Keep your ears open to see if this is going to have another run, even if it is with a new cast, because while the cast brought a lot to this performance (great acting, wonderful singing, and almost perfect timing,) what started this musical off in a great position was a very well-written script.

Kieren Macmillan and Jeremy Hutton wrote a very good script, which did what every piece written for children should aim for-creating something that entertains on more than one level. Entertaining the child is something you can’t lose track of when trying to appeal to adults as well, and very often a work will try too hard and lose both age groups interest. This is excellently written, and they should be congratulated for their work on this musical.

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