Queued at Palmerston Library for A Quest of Character, my four-year-old son Stanley – my regular Kid + 1 Toronto Fringe Festival review partner – asked whether this show would have singing? Yes, I replied. And dancing too? Yes. Would there be puppets? Why yes, yes there would. Confidently he declared “Then I will like it!” And indeed, he mostly did, and mostly so did I.
The show is, as the title suggests, a quest. Bickering pals Princess Celese and Sir Liam, being careless and selfish and generally awful, break inventor Luminaria’s songalongamatron. This marvelous device, which turns human emotions into musical riffs, is very important to Luminaria and she sentences them to a quest to repair it. Off they go, followed by a pair of rascally frogs to supervise the action, and the quest is begun.
The show is simple and fairly quick at 45 minutes. As Celeste and Liam quest, they demonstrate assorted character traits like empathy, respect, perseverance and integrity (which the frogs name and the songalongamatron sings along to). It’s… not a subtle situation, but for four-year-olds that’s usually best. Luminaria, who also disguises herself to tempt and teach our adventurers along the way, is played by a really wonderful Meg Gibson, and it’s perfectly fair to say that the show’s overall success owes a lot to her characterizations. Children’s theatre requires a willingness to commit fully even to playing a clutzy dragon named Doodleberry or a fast-talking ladybug with a pyramid scheme up her carapace, and Gibson delivers.
The other players all did very fine jobs, though I wished we could hear Lex Tan as Sir Liam better – especially when he sings, as he has a lovely voice. The songs, unfortunately, weren’t my favorite. I don’t mind a short ditty, but as soon as it became clear that this cast was capable of close harmony, I wanted all of the sings to be arranged that way – great to listen to and solved the volume problem that plagued them all, especially in the Palmerston Library space with the subway rumbling overhead. The arrangements as written didn’t really show off anyone’s best work, except a brief scat by Michael Knutson as Melvin Bullfrog that got my son all excited, since he’s a huge Ella Fitzgerald fan.
A Quest of Character falls squarely into the 4-8 range of kids theatre, and it’s a nice show – probably good for talking afterwards about how we cooperate, treat others, or get along in general.
July 04 at 11:30 AM
July 05 at 03:45 PM
July 06 at 02:00 PM
July 07 at 07:15 PM
July 08 at 05:15 PM
July 10 at 11:00 AM
July 11 at 04:00 PM
July 12 at 02:30 PM
Tickets for all mainstage productions are $10 at the door, cash only. Advance tickets are $12, and can be purchased online, by phone (416-966-1062), or from the festival box office at the Fringe Club. (Rear of Honest Ed’s, 581 Bloor St. West). Money-saving value packs are also available if you are going to at least five shows; see website for details.
LATECOMERS ARE NEVER ADMITTED TO FRINGE SHOWS. To avoid disappointment, be sure to arrive a few minutes before curtain.
Photo provided by the company