Review: Rapunzel (The NAGs)

Let down your long hair with some hilarious theatre hijinks at the Tranzac in Toronto

Production still from "Rapunzel" by the NAGsAlthough Ross Petty’s annual extravaganzas are a seat-filling sight to behold, the English pantomime is equally rooted in community theatre. Every year throughout the English-speaking world, church halls, school gyms and community auditoriums erupt into laughter as loved ones make fools of themselves, and The NAGs’ Rapunzel (playing at the Tranzac) fits seamlessly into this tradition.

Pantomime is deceptively simple: you actually need a lot of talent to write something simultaneously silly and clever, but this production (penned by director Ginty Burns) sparkles and charms with just the right balance of sweet innocence and knowing glances. Bad puns—including the worst BlackBerry-related joke ever committed to paper—seep from every crack, and most characters have at least a few truly horrible wonderful lines.

This show also has some surprisingly good costumes, with obvious attention to detail: from the flapping bird nestled in Fairy Oddmother’s updo to the hairy wart on the Witch’s chin, the NAGs clearly have a special touch for this sort of character work.

The actors constantly upstage each other, as they well should. Although they’ve rounded up several enormous hams, the biggest of the lot are Rekha Rajaram and Stephen Cardie as Rumple and Stiltskin, who are so entertaining as to make it nearly impossible to pay attention to anything else on stage; Sharon Kirby, playing a Dudley Do-Rightesque Buttons; and Spencer Wilson, whose Fairy Oddmother is exactly as campy and sassy as she ought to be.

The songs are well chosen, blissfully short, and lobbed at the audience like the deliciously pun-laden anvils they are. And keep an eye out for a truly glorious panto horse, which I’ve been warned not to spoil further under penalty of being turned into a newt.

As with most pantomimes, the plot doesn’t really matter—although it will give you a new appreciation for r-r-r-rabbits and r-r-r-rampion. What really counts is the energy of the cast, the audience interaction, and the madcap glee of the entire exercise, and this production delivers amply on all three. Suitable for all ages, the NAGs’ annual pantomime (now in its 35th year) is a tradition well worth enjoying.

Details

  • Rapunzel plays at the Tranzac Club (292 Brunswick Ave) through the 16th of February, 2013.
  • Performances run Thursday through Saturday at 8 PM, with a Saturday matinee at 1:30.
  • Ticket prices vary from $12 to $20, see website for details.
  • Tickets are available online, by telephone (647-338-NAGS) or in-person at the venue immediately before performances.
  • Full bar service is available at evening performances.

Photograph of Claire Bouchal and Tyler Metcalf by Ginty Burns.

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