Review: Maravilla – Second City

by Lucy Allen

Second City Toronto Comedy Show Entertaining for Entire Family and Then Some!

So you want to introduce your kids to the wonderful world of theatre but you realize that Hamlet is not exactly up their alley.  On the other hand, kid-friendly entertainment has a way of being excruciating for parents to sit through.  Well, worry not, for Second City has provided Maravilla, a family show that everyone will enjoy.  And believe me, it’s not a show to be missed.
Maravilla is the story of a young girl named Karen.  Upon discovering that her parents are getting a divorce, she decides to embark on a quest to the Big City to find her dad who’s been there the last two months.  Of course, what begins as a simple task turns into an epic quest to save the city from being converted into what is called the MonstrosCity.  Along the way, she meets several quirky individuals (some friendly, some not so friendly) and gets to know the strange place that is the Big City.
I had wanted to try and bring a kid to this show with me to get some feedback from the target audience, but since I don’t know any kids in Toronto, I decided to take my most child-like friend, Amber, with me.  Neither one of us knew exactly what to expect.  I had told her as much as I knew, which amounted to, “It’s a family show . . . it has puppets . . . want to come with me?”  We smiled and laughed at the beginning of the show and pretty much stayed that way until we left the theatre.
What to talk about first?  The story follows the classic fairy tale arc, with the young hero’s perfect world being thrown upside-down, leading her to go on a seemingly simple quest that spirals into something more epic and ultimately leads to a journey of self-discovery for herself and her friends.  What makes the old formula fresh in Maravilla is the Toronto-inspired setting.
There are constant jabs and nudges at Torontonian culture, and the neighbourhoods and social circles we all know so well have been given a larger-than-life treatment.  Little Italy is full of very tiny Italians, Tent City is where the homeless population live and the dreaded Club Land, one of my personal favourites, is full of zombie-like dancers.  Anyone who’s spent more than a week in a city will enjoy these moments.  And there are many.
Bringing the city to life is a mixture of live actors and puppets.  The puppets used were both innovative and fleshed out extremely well by the actors working them.  Having grown up on the Muppets, I absolutely loved seeing them in action on stage.  As for the live actors, the ensemble cast do a terrific job pulling off multiple characters throughout the show.  All provided a lot of comedic gold, especially the narrator whose scenes were amongst the most entertaining.  And oh yeah, there’s an acrobatic monkey . . . enough said.
As I said, this is called a family comedy show, and it’s one of the first times I’ve seen someone actually include everyone in the family.  There are the puppets, the musical numbers and many funny moments for the kids, but there are actually probably more jokes that adults will enjoy that would fly over the head of anyone under twelve.  What I really enjoyed about the show was the creator’s decision to trust kids with some of the more complex plot points and the darker subject matter.  Maravilla is an extremely comedic show, but, like the best comedy, it also has a lot of heart to it, and the moral that’s taught is an important and relevant one.
If you have kids, check out Maravilla. Heck, if you don’t have kids, go check it out.  It’s a hilarious, intelligent and heart-felt adventure that had me feeling like a kid again.  Best of all, it’s very affordable. The best way to sum it up would be Amber’s words to me upon exiting the theatre:  “That was the perfect way to start the day.”
Maravilla is playing on the Second City Mainstage (51 Mercer Street) until May 9th.
-Showtimes are Sat. and Sun. at 11 am.
-Tickets are $12 each or $40 for a family 4-pack.
-Tickets can be purchased online, by calling 416-343-0011 or at the door.
Photo by Eamon Mac Mahon