Review: Parfumerie (Soulpepper)

Soulpepper’s closing show of the season, the Christmas spectacular “Parfumerie”, is like wearing a gorgeous piece of vintage jewelry. It serves no other purpose than to look wonderful and to make you feel sparkly and nostalgic. It is a remount from 2009 and it is clear to see why audiences would want to return to its charm.

Ken Macdonald’s set is complete magic. It is a pink sugarspun dream of a bygone era – a fine apothecary and perfume shop of late 1930s Europe that feels more like Paris than what we now envision for Budapest. No wartime here…somehow. Just sweetly wrapped packages of perfumes and creams. I particularly loved the actors wrapping gifts and stacking wrapped soaps throughout.
The show was first written in 1937 by Miklos Laszlo and was adapted for this round by Adam Pettle and Brenda Robins. It’s a sweet little farce with a whole lot of heart. The cast of thirteen wheel in and out with the breakneck pace of shopping at Christmastime.

Morris Panych has set the tone for pantomine or at the very least, a Christmas farce. Cast members leap over the large ottoman centre stage, live violin music plays for the show’s requisite lovebirds, and a revolving door provides ample farcical fun. I particularly loved the cast shouting in unison, “Thank you for shopping at Hammerschmidt’s!” repeatedly to the shop’s many customers in the first scene.

Don’t overthink this one. It serves the same purpose that it did in depressed, pre -war 1930s. Complete escape! There is drama – who is sleeping with the boss’s wife? There is intrigue – do they hate each other or do they love each other? There is comedy: “Well he’s not my fiancé yet. I’m planning on getting proposed to tonight.” And yes, I have to say it – there is heart. The characters are each so carefully created and embraced by this entire slapstick ensemble. It is sweet, neat, and simply perfect.

A show with falling stage snow and caroling really does it in my books. Combined with fun workplace antics, great characters AND it is set in the late 1930s? C’mon. You had me at stage snow.

Feeling festive, my date Lacey and I had time to enjoy the sweetly festive Christmas bazaar in The Distillery District before heading to the Young Centre. And we might have imbibed just a bit. Or at least just enough that Lacey fell asleep during the significantly longer first act. So her feedback was that the show felt a bit long. But, as we all know, not everything used to be in 140 characters. Didn’t bother me though. I was, quite literally, “lol”-ing. I even laughed so hard I clapped. I clapped, people.

This might not be a show for super young kids, but I did see some ten year olds who were thoroughly engrossed. I would definitely recommend this show for families. After a year of some seeing some pretty weighty matter, I left feeling as light as the cotton candy-coloured set. And c’mon! Stage snow!


Parfumerie plays from Dec 12 – 31 at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts on 55 Mill Street, Building 49 in the Distillery District.
Tickets are $28 – $65 (plus HST) and can be purchased by phone at 416.866.8666, online at or in person at the box office.

2 thoughts on “Review: Parfumerie (Soulpepper)”

  1. Did we watch the same show? The one with the wooden uninteresting characters voiced by mediocre, uncharismatic performers? The set was pretty, the show stank. Very poor direction….it dragged a lot….it felt like Waiting for Guffman meets Our Town. Very sorry to have paid $50 for this piece of rubbish. Having just seen Ride the Cyclone and returned from London – a few good shows there ;) – maybe I expected too much, but really…can nobody fucking act in this country??? Can we not hire some talent to direct? The set was pretty….

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