Immersive seafaring adventure play takes to Toronto waters
At the lawless edge of Toronto, there’s a pirate adventure awaiting young and old in Pippi: The Strongest Girl In The World, an original musical adaptation of a Pippi Longstocking tale of finding adventure on the high seas (in this case, on Lake Ontario). Presented by an energetic young cast of actor/musicians as their boat takes a cheerful cruise of the lake, Pippi: The Strongest Girl In The World is a charming way to spend a breezy hour with the family.
This show begins and ends on land, in the yard of Villa Villakula, but takes many amusing and melodic turns. Pippi, shocked that her friends Tommy (Lucas Penner) and Annika (Tymika McKensie-Clunis) have never experienced a shipwreck before, promises to take them on a “very gentle” shipwreck adventure. When they encounter a pirate trio known as Legitimate Trash, dear friends of Pippi’s from her days at sea, they decide to join forces.
There is some initial tension between the landlubbers and the seafarers as different ways of having fun come somewhat into conflict, but it’s resolved pleasingly (and in song!). Annie Tuma (who plays Pippi) and Lena Maripuu (as Flicka, one of the Trash pirates) have created an adaptation that really welcomes, and clearly pleases, the 4-8 year old set (it’s billed as being for kids and anyone who was ever a kid, but seemed pitched mostly at the K-3 crowd, who ate it up).
Songwriter Landon Doak has a knack for hummable, clap-alongable melodies that the kids really get into, and my seven-year-old really dug pirate Melker, played by Mike Ricci, who was satisfyingly grubby and carefree (Kelsey Tuma rounded out the pirate trio). The group sings, dances, works out their differences, and generally provides the audience with a fun excursion.
It’s breezy on the lake, so long pants are a good idea for the evening shows (though blankets are provided). But nothing is scary or even really conflictual, and my small companion, who is very sensitive to conflict in shows or movies, was wide-eyed and delighted the entire time. When I asked them, in the car on the way home, what had been their favorite part, they replied with great enthusiasm: “Everything!” and then, after a beat, “it could have been longer, I think. It was a fun story, they could have sang even more songs.”
I’m not sure I necessarily wanted more than 75 minutes, but keeping a boatload of children rapt for an hour and a quarter is a real feat. The one drawback to the sea adventure life is the ambient noise — sometimes it was hard to hear what was happening, and the wind stole the punchlines of a few of the best groaners. Still and all, Pippi: The Strongest Girl In The World was a surprisingly pleasing way to see theatre and still be home for bedtime.
- Pippi: The Strongest Girl In The World plays until October 8, 2017 at Pirate Life, 333 Lakeshore Blvd E in Toronto
- Multiple daily shows between 10:30am and 4:45pm until Monday September 4, 2017, then multiple shows between 10:30 and 4:15pm on Satudays and Sundays until October 8, 2017
- Tickets are $25 (free for children 2 and under) and may be had on the website.
photo of the cast by Laura Spitzer