Review (Kid + 1): Munsch-O-Mania (George Brown Theatre)

MunschMunsch-O-Mania should “please eyes and ears of every age”, now on stage in Toronto

An energetic cast of George Brown Theatre students delighted my preschooler (and myself!) with their musical adaptation of Robert Munsch stories in Munsch-O-Mania, on stage now at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts.

When my son was a baby I looked forward to introducing him to the books, movies and TV shows that I had loved as a youth. Unfortunately, many of these have problematic messaging when viewed from my 2015 progressively political perspective. Not Munsch, though — some of his stories are refreshingly free of having any sort of “moral”, and others stand up to scrutiny, such as the inherent feminism in The Paper Bag Princess.

For this production, adapted and directed by David Storch, the Tank House Theatre is set in the round with seating close to the stage so the shorter members of the audience can see. On occasion the performers engaged directly with the little ones as well. The stage itself is decorated in bright colours, as are the costumes, which also feature bold patterns like stripes and stars.

Munsch has written far too many stories over his career to include them all, but you’re sure to see a few of your personal favourites. There was no Alligator Baby but Paper Bag Princess was there, with a hilarious trick to represent “flying around the world in ten seconds.” They celebrated non-Caucasian naming with Penny and touchingly examined the love underlying parental-child conflict with Something Good.

My kid’s favourites, if judging by the times he interjected at full volume, were: Roar! (the George Brown performers were fantastic and obviously thoroughly trained in their art, but forgive me if I maintain the position that my son roars as well as they do); and Good Families Don’t, which had him insisting to the whole theatre that all families fart, they do, they all do!

If I have any reservation about Munsch’s work, it’s that his characters all seem to have one Mommy and one Daddy. I haven’t read some of his more recent books so perhaps there are one or two that portray alternative family structures; if so, none are in this production. Being a queer parent, I would love to see more kids’ entertainment that normalizes same-sex and transgender parents.

The performers are adept triple threats, acting, singing and dancing at professional levels, and Munsch-O-Mania sped through an impressive number of Munsch stories seamlessly and enthusiastically. With original music and lyrics by J. Rigzin Tute and choreography by Robert McCollum, every transition, plus the opening and closing, were spectacles to please eyes and ears of every age.


Photo provided by the company