Young People’s Theatre inspiring Toronto’s children to think creatively with their RATical retelling of Cinderella
Good children’s theatre is transformative. Since experiencing Cinderella (a RATical retelling), I’ve been twitching my nose. That is to say, who would have thought a tale heard so many times could be moving, or – I have to say it – ratical?
Telling stories from a new angle is nothing new (think Wicked), nor is handing the storytelling to animals (Charlotte’s Web). In this Young People’s Theatre production, it’s the rats who usually morph into Cinderella’s horses, carriage and footmen narrating the tale. Indeed, one song seems a nod to that tradition and Cats specifically.
More importantly to this production, the rat perspective is a new and beautifully ugly way to explore the story from a vermin scum world that’s the antithesis of palaces and princes. It also gives British playwright Mike Kenny of award-winning The Railway Children fame a chance to mess around with language.
For example, instead of an invitation, Cinderella receives “an infestation.” Cinderella is “beautiful like icicles,” something else is described as “ugly like Snickers behind your back.” Can’t you just taste “a slug in your lettuce”?
While lines like “rice and peas, poos and wees” were favourites of the younger crowd, older kids and adults get classics that make this children’s play accessible to everyone. “I doubt the little kids got the Dr. and Who joke,” said my rat-loving companion for the night.
It takes particular style to pull off these word stunts and the five tail-cracking rats, each with its own distinct character and under the direction of YPT’s artistic director, Allen MacInnis, deliver. A creative wardrobe design allows them to flip around hats and pull skirts down to full-length to switch from rodents to humans.
In parts reminiscent of Into the Woods, this mini-musical composed by Canadian Jason Jestadt is backed up by a piano and sax duo. 2006 Canadian Idol finalist Steffi DiDomenicantonio is the perfect atypical short-hair princess. Like everything else in this play, she’s not what you expect.
Cinderella obviously needs no plot summary. But it’s worth remembering that in typical Young People’s Theatre style the whole event inspires kids to think. My companion, who is at the tail end (pun intended) of the demographic (this performance is intended for kids to grade six), read the Questions for the Ride Home page of the program, and grabbed my pen in the dark to scribble down answers.
Everything is exaggerated, as kids’ theatre tends to be, but that’s all good. As an adult in the crowd you think: They’re acting and teaching kids about the wonderful world of creativity. This got me as a child, and YPT is still doing it 47 years later.
Which made opening night’s announcement of the Slaight family’s $1 million dollar contribution – a total of $2 million to date – all the sweeter. The Slaight family daughters grew up on YPT, and they’re passing it forward. Hip, hip, YPT!
Photo: Mark Seow
– Performance times vary, see the full performance schedule.
– Tickets are $15-$20.
– Tickets can be purchased online or by calling the box office: 416-862-2222.