Review (Kid Plus One): Cinderella At Muddy York (Puppetmongers)

Kid Plus One is Mooney on Theatre’s series reviewing children’s and young adult shows with our actual children. We’ll pay special attention to topics of interest to parents and caregivers: suitability of theme, how engaging the show is, how tolerant of childish commotions, and so on to help you choose the best shows for your young audience members.

It seems that Cinderella, with its themes of family and belonging – plus the original magical storybook ending- is one of the more frequently updated pieces in theatre. After all, what’s more relatable than a diligent, hard-done-by child whose lot is miraculously improved and leads to riches and happiness? It’s a clear and compelling storyline, which accounts for its continuing popularity as the basis for an update. Cinderella In Muddy York is a charming, old-fashioned puppet show – now in its 23rd year – sets the story at the moment just before Toronto was officially renamed and imports the story to 1830s Canada, but the tale is recognizable nevertheless.

It’s an interesting exercise to count back 23 years and think about what kind of entertainment and images were available to children when this puppet show started. The piece is well-performed, and full of little clevernesses – lines to amuse older children and parents, dancing puppets, and frank magic (wait’ll you see the pumpkin carriage!). However, it does not match the frenetic pace of most children’s entertainments, with Lots Doing Every Moment! I wondered, as we cruised gently into the second section of the show, whether the children were going to start losing interest.

To my delight, they didn’t. Even during the – longish, by theatrical standards – periods where there was absolutely nothing to see or hear from the stage, I didn’t hear the sounds of impatience. Even my son, at not-quite-three (the recommended minimum age for this show was 5, and that seems right generally) was a little squirmy but silent waiting to see what would come next. The show clearly engaged his imagination enough that pauses gave him room to consider, not just time to get bored. As a parent, I adored this feature of the show.

The puppeteers, in sweaters and waistcoats over top, are sibling team Ann and David Powell. Though they have some flair, nothing about their performance is especially showy. Their puppet skills are rock solid, and it was easy to just…fail to notice them until the scene changed.

The puppets are simple and well made, and the scenery suggested with a few props rather than created in an elaborate fashion. The entire show really did depend on the story and the craft of the puppeteers. It was a refreshingly old-school, analog experience for a kids’s show, and my old-school heart was gladdened that so many of the kids in the audience seemed genuinely enthusiastic about it.

 

Kid Plus One notes:

Darkness: House lights are dimmed, but not darkened entirely.

Loud/sudden noises: None.

Themes: Belonging, exclusion, hope, family and footwear.

Seating: general admission. Some seats are blocked off because the don’t provide the best sightline; choose center seats for the best view.

Overall family-friendliness: Medium-high. It was absolutely silent in the theatre during the show, and warnings about not rustling snacks or talking were issues pre-show. I think the performers wouldn’t have minded the odd rapidly-shushed childish comment, but a talkative child would have to be removed.

Details

– Cinderella in Muddy York is playing at Theatre Passe Muraille, (16 Ryerson Ave) till January 5, 2013.
– Shows at 2pm every day until 5 January, except 31 Dec and 1 Jan
– Ticket prices are $25 for adults and $20 for children, students and seniors. A $75 Family pack of tickets is available by phone only.
– Tickets are available at the box office, by phone at 416.504.7529, and online.