Bremen Rock City (Song Trolley Productions) 2013 Toronto Fringe Review

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Before the show, standing in line to see Bremen Rock City at the Palmerston Theatre, a number of the kids around me asked “Are we going to see The Wizard of Oz?” Which, I suppose, is the play they had heard of. It struck me on the way out that in ten years, some other Fringe show might be crowded with kids saying “Are we going to see Bremen Rock City?” Yeah, it’s that good.

It’s not perfect, mind you. Not yet. But the bones are so good, I can easily see what it’s going to grow into once it’s got just a little seasoning. The cast is exceptional (more on them in a minute), full of what feels like authentic fun and enthusiasm. It’s not a jazz-hands, imagined performance of what they think children’s theatre should look like, it’s a sincere kind of fun that invites the audience into it. The songs are that magical combination of being kid-friendly while not causing adult ears to bleed.

The book, though a little rough and rushed in a few places, gives us a great arc – it’s a classic, the story of a young donkey and the friends he meets along the way to finding his dream. His ego carries him away for a while and he loses his friends, but someone helps him realize the error of his ways and he’s able to recognize what really matters in life. The book also gives us some great puns, including one truly killer line near the end that held the show for a full fifteen seconds while waves of laughter rolled over us.

It’s worth mentioning that in some kids’ shows, bad behaviour goes on a long time and is “magically” redeemed at the end. In this show, we see quite a lot of Jack and his friends enjoying their time together, followed by a brief and regrettable period of Jack acting like an ass (rimshot), and then the happy conclusion. As a parent, I prefer this method.

And now the cast. The cast are, to a creature, fabulous. With little more than ears and tails for costumes, this ensemble of singing, dancing phenoms make such great theatre. Each of them is fantastic – fantastic in their little movements and gestures, in their voices, in their musicianship. They sing and dance about, blending (apparently effortlessly) into and out of complex harmonies while also waving paper cutouts of silos and performing jazz squares. It’s pretty delightful to watch.

A few notes: I think that the lower age of six is a little high; my sense is that a four-year-old could enjoy this or even a music-loving three. The joke about the girl who turns out to be a boy is a weird note of mean gender-policing in an otherwise sweet show and it should go away and never come back. And last, the train sounds while they’re on the train to Bremen just make it hard to hear Lex and Jack talk. We know they’re on a train. It’s all good.

But these are minor nitpicks. The takeaway here is, this show is so good it seems destined to be a classic. Also, maybe most tellingly of all, I am planning to pay cash to bring my son next week, so he can enjoy it too.

Details:

– Bremen Rock City is playing at the Palmerston Theatre (560 Palmerston Avenue)

Performances

Thursday July 4 @ 12:45pm
Saturday July 6 @ 7:15pm
Sunday July 7 @ 4:00pm
Monday July 8 @ 11:30am
Wednesday July 10 @ 7:30pm
Thursday July 11 @ 12:30pm
Friday July 12 @ 2:45pm
Sunday July 14 @ 5:00pm

Tickets

  • Individual Fringe tickets are available at the door for $10 ($5 for FringeKids), cash only. Late comers will not be permitted.
  • Advance tickets are $11 ($9 + $2 service charge) are available online at fringetoronto.com, by phone at 416-966-1062 ext 1, or in person during the festival at the Festival Box Office in the parking lot behind Honest Ed’s (581 Bloor St W).
  • Value packs are available if you plan to see at least 5 shows

 

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