Romeo and Juliet…A Puppet Epic! (Shakey-Shake and Friends) 2011 Toronto Theatre Review

Romeo and Juliet
is a classic Shakespearean tale of star-crossed lovers who meet a tragic end (sorry to spoil it for you). And now, you can watch this classical tale in puppet form – and a family friendly version at that. Romeo and Juliet…A Puppet Epic!, written and directed by Tom McGee, is playing at the Palmerson Library Theatre.

You may be wondering, as I was going in, how they are able to make Romeo and Juliet family-friendly, considering all the deaths and suicides. Romeo and Juliet do die – however, the puppets that play them, Len (Michael Man) and Lucy (Shira Taylor), live happily ever after. Even when they’re supposed to be dead, the puppets usually find an excuse to keep talking anyways.

The puppeteers are not hidden behind anything. They walk around the scenes, controlling the action as well as performing themselves. Usually in cases where you can see the puppeteers they are supposed to be ignored in favour of the puppet, and in these instances they are fully in sync with the puppet’s performance. The puppets themselves range from being merely socks with eyes to Jim Henson-esque puppets for the central characters. There are also a few monsters and a “shirtless” wolf to boot.

Kids will enjoy it for the characters, who despite the tragic story are appropriately silly. The show quite capably brings the classic tragedy down to their level. There are also plenty of topical references for the adults: for instance, Twilight, Rebecca Black’s Friday and numerous other Shakespearean plays are all mentioned. There’s plenty here for the adults to laugh at too.

This light-hearted version of Romeo and Juliet is an excellent show that I’d highly recommend for kids and adults. It may just instill a lifelong love of Shakespeare in its audience, and what could be better than that?

Romeo and Juliet…A Puppet Epic! is playing at the Palmerston Library Theatre (560 Palmerston Avenue) until July 16, 2011.
– Show dates are July 11 at 7:45pm, July 12 at 6pm, July 14 at 2:30pm, July 15 at 6:15pm, and July 16 at 11:30am.
– All individual Fringe tickets are $10 ($5 for FringeKids) at the door (cash only). Tickets are available online at, by phone at 416-966-1062 or in person (Advance tickets are $11 – $10+$1 convenience fee)
– Several money-saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 5 shows

Photo of Shira Taylor, Merritt Crews, Michael Man, Megan Miles by Tom McGee.