Alligator Pie is a “delightful musical journey through the works of a Canadian literature icon” at Toronto’s Soulpepper.
You know when you love something so much you have no idea how to talk about it? That happened to me with Soulpepper’s Alligator Pie. I just want to make my review “Alligator Pie is fantastic, go see it!”
Instead I’ll try to write something a bit more useful. But really, the show is fantastic, go see it!
I was hooked from the first moments of the piece. The mood is set by a relatively bare stage, adorned only by painted designs and four boxes of intriguing props. Immediately we’re greeted with fantastic physical comedy, before any of Dennis Lee’s words even make an appearance. The five performers – who also developed the piece – feel like clown/kid hybrids and seem to be having the time of their life.
Classifying the piece as a musical might be misleading because it doesn’t follow the conventions people expect from a musical, but it is filled with wonderful original music. Not only is the music beautifully crafted, it also incorporates several unexpected things as unconventional instruments. My favourite unconventional instrument was a roll of packing tape.
If you saw (re)Birth: E.E. Cummings in Song, another piece I adored, this might be sounding familiar. It was what I was hoping for given the creators the pieces had in common and the fact that both pieces were based on poetry. I got the same rush watching this as I did (re)Birth, but this one was even more playful.
The piece is presented ‘in the round’, so the audience surrounds the action. There are several benefits to this, but one that was fun in this situation was that every once in a while I would look across and see the joy in the face of a stranger across the way as they enjoyed what was happening on stage too.
This type of staging has its challenges of course, there were certainly times when I wished I could see what the performers were doing to make the people across from me laugh while they were facing away from me.
Ultimately though, the piece being staged in the round meant that I felt a little bit like I was watching kids in a room playing together. I don’t think that sense would have been as acute if I’d see with more ‘traditional’ staging.
Now to the question everyone keeps asking me… Is it appropriate for kids. The answer is an unqualified yes. In fact, the times the piece is showing – lots of matinees – make it pretty clear that they’re expecting a kid-heavy audience for this one. I plan to take my three and a half year old this weekend.
In case you’re looking for an opinion from someone better qualified than me on whether or not kids will like it, after the show I was chatting with a five year old and her brother who is seven. They LOVED it. They didn’t know any Dennis Lee before the show, so it wasn’t a matter of them recognizing the words. After the show though they kept reciting Alligator Pie and doing the little dance they saw on the stage. They were both over the moon.
And the man himself? Mr. Lee? What does he think? Well, I haven’t done an in-depth interview, but he was sitting behind me and I did ask him what he thought about seeing his words on stage like that. He said he thought it was great, and seemed pretty genuine about that. His date for the evening seemed pretty blown away. They were walking behind me and she kept talking about it with the same level of excitement I was feeling.
This work was developed by the Creation Ensemble at Soulpepper, made up of Ins Choi, Raquel Duffy, Ken MacKenzie, Gregory
Prest and Mike Ross. I’m really hoping they do more of this kind of work. I think this ‘performance and concert of musical interpretations of poetry’ should be a genre, but I think it needs a catchier name than that. I don’t know what that name should be. I do know I want to see more of it.
Don’t feel like it’s a show ‘just for kids’. I think adults will love it just as much as kids, they’ll just love different aspects. Get yourself a ticket to this delightful musical journey through the works of a Canadian literature icon; it’s fun, it’s beautiful, it’s bursting with talent, and it’s different.
- Alligator Pie is playing at Soulpepper until November 25, 2012. Matinees begin at 1:00 pm on Thursday, 11:00 am and Saturday and 2:00 pm on Sunday, with evening performances at 7:00 pm on Friday and 5:00 pm on Sunday.
- Performances take place at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, 55 Mill Street, Building 49.
- Single tickets will be $23 (plus service charge); A Family Four Pack will be $94 (inclusive). They can be purchased online or by calling the box office at 416.866.8666.
Photo of Raquel Duffy, Ins Choi, Mike Ross & Ken MacKenzie by Jason Hudson