I never expected to see improvisation at the Toronto Fringe Festival’s FringeKids! Now that I’ve seen Corral Blue Can’t Dance, I’ll be looking for it—though it only composed one part of this multifaceted kids’ variety show by Off Model Studios.
Just the atmosphere around George Ignatieff invited me, an adult reviewer, into the wonderful world of FringeKids! where magicians show off tricks and puppets greet audience members on their way to the box office tent.
Inside, Corral Blue (Amy Zuch) and her friends Cowboy the Hat (Devon Hyland) , Robo-Horse (yes, a part-real, part-animated robot horse), Tumble the Weed (a lovable, but oddly blue tumbleweed puppet), and “Cactus” Kevin Henkel, encouraged audience participation through song, dance, improvisation, live animation, humor, and puppets.
Corral and Cowboy asked for audience suggestions for skits and animated sketches, invited one audience member up on stage, and of course, started a theater-wide dance party—even as someone skeptical of participation, I wanted to shout out suggestions and boogie.
More importantly, the kids in the theatre couldn’t wait to participate. In fact, during the second round of Cowboy the Hat’s sketches, some tried to shout out their own punch lines to the jokes instead of waiting for his— I would have loved to hear their versions.
The improvisation and Corral Blue’s live animated cartoons were my favorite sections of the show. Song and dance have proven themselves as cornerstones of children’s entertainment, but these two new tools prove that Corral Blue and her corral are developing something new.
In the second half of the show, Corral Blue and Cowboy the Hat started a improvisation skit. As a stereotypical rich person, Cowboy the Hat began the scene by kicking Corral Blue off his lawn.
Instead of going along with the scene, Corral Blue challenged him to pick something different. She couldn’t make anything funny or positive with his mean rich person.
So they started over. How often does that happen? How often do talented Second City-trained performers demonstrate the rules and creation process behind their craft—especially for young audiences?
I don’t know if the kids understood the lesson they taught, or if it was intended, but as someone normally terrified of improv, I loved seeing the gears turning and performers embracing a do-over, live on stage.
I picked this show for the promise of live on-stage animation. Corral Blue’s drawing didn’t happen as smoothly and wasn’t integrated into the story as I expected, but it did engage the entire theatre.
Corral Blue Can’t Dance performs at its best when it puts story first, whether through demonstrating improvisation while creating a sketch or using the audience’s suggestions to live animate a cartoon story.
But for me, any show that ends with giggles and everyone dancing in the aisles is a hoot.
For more interaction, visit Corral Blue online.
- Corral Blue Can’t Dance is playing until July 15 at the George Ignatieff Theatre. (15 Devonshire Place)
- Tickets are $12 in advance, $10 at the door, $5 for young people. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes for serious Fringers.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by phone (416-966-1062), from the festival box office down Honest Ed’s Alley (581 Bloor West), or from the venue box office starting one hour before the peformance. Venue sales are cash-only.
- Be advised that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and latecomers are never admitted. Set your watch to CBC time, and arrive a few minutes early to avoid disappointment.
July 03 at 05:00 PM
July 05 at 04:45 PM
July 07 at 03:00 PM
July 08 at 05:00 PM
July 10 at 03:00 PM
July 11 at 03:15 PM
Photo of Amy Zuch as Corral Blue and Caleigh LeGrand as GussyPost by “Raw Photography” and Amy Zuch.