Fairy tales come to life thanks to Role Your Own Theatre in Toronto
Reviewing a children’s theatrical production like Fairy Tale Ending is a spectacularly subjective undertaking, and rarely is that more true than when reviewing with a child. Never do factors like “mood” and “seating” (to say nothing of “snack” and “nap”) come into play more than when your show partner is three-and-a-half. That said, attending the theatre with a small person provides information that’s difficult to come by any other way. For example, I learned at Wychwood Barns on Friday that Fairy Tale Ending is for older kids than mine.
That’s not to say that it’s inappropriate for small children. There aren’t any difficult themes or too-advanced concepts introduced. It’s just that this show – which is frolicsome, fun and cheerful – isn’t really comprehensible for kids under the age of about seven. It relies on the audience to know the stories of The Three Little Pigs, The Three Billy Goats Gruff, Goldilocks and The Little Bears and Little Red Riding Hood well enough to spot deviations in the action and understand what they represent. Even my son, who is an avid reader and loves stories (including some of those) found quite a bit of the action bewildering.
Also, many of the jokes – clever wordplays, a few of them worthy of Sondheim himself – were really comprehensible only to an adult. This simultaneously had the effect of entertaining the grownups and leaving a very cute chorus of small voices murmuring “What’s funny, Papa? What’s funny?” The show also introduces a Taser as a weapon and has the Troll explode a bride with an Improvised Explosive Device, which I’m kind of glad I didn’t end up having to explain.
My son got startled after about ten minutes by the shouting, of which there is quite a bit in the show, and insisted we leave. We sat in the lobby, listening to the songs, until we got a very kind surprise visit from Goldilocks, in character – a note-perfect Valley Girl, exuberantly played by Jennifer Walls (hilarious to me, but I’m 38) – who worked to reassure him that everything was okay. After her visit, he was willing to go back into the theatre (we stood just inside the door) to watch his new friend Goldilocks, but as soon as she was offstage he lost interest again. Luckily, he was willing to be a good sport about playing quietly with the very good-natured house manager while I watched the rest of the show.
It’s a charming, high-energy show, certainly, and there’s lots about it to like. The actors are well-rehearsed and good at their parts, especially Saphire Demitro as The Troll, a lovely girl painted green and crammed into an awful dress. They sing well and dance about with energy and verve. But ultimately, I wouldn’t go back with kids younger than seven, though this would be absolutely perfect for grandparent/grandkid outings, and I might do a little prep first by reading the relevant stories and discussing them. There’s a lot to like about this little musical – if you’re old enough to read pretty well by yourself. If your kids are under seven or so, this might be more for your inner child than your actual child.
Kid Plus One notes:
Darkness: House goes completely dark several times during the show.
Loud/sudden noises: Loud, angry sounding arguing breaks out among the characters four or five times.
Themes: Family, books, imagination, hats.
Seating: general admission. All the seats are decent, choose higher seats for the best view.
Overall family-friendliness: Medium-high. There was a lot of music and noise to cover any chattiness, and the cast and staff were clearly very kid-positive
– Fairy Tale Ending is playing at Wychwood Barns, (76 Wychwood Ave Ave) till June 9, 2013.
– Multiple shows per day, check website for performances.
– Ticket prices are $15 for adults and $12 for children under 12
– Tickets are available online.
2 thoughts on “Review (Kid Plus One): Fairy Tale Ending (Role Your Own Theatre)”
These are so helpful! I have three boys (10, 8, and 3) and its too expensive for a so-so show. Even just knowing in advance what to expect like this makes it much easier to choose what to go to. But no one else really reviews the kid shows. Have this dad di more of these please.
Dear Mr Bergman,
Thank you so much for your considered and thoughtful review.
As both co-creator of “Fairy Tale Ending” and father of a not-quite-three-year-old girl, I’m truly sorry our production startled your son. I saw you duck out of the theatre (not knowing who you were at the time, of course). I was playing the piano, so I couldn’t go see what was wrong — I’m so glad to hear that Jeni came out to see you (she’s incredibly thoughtful that way).
“Fairy Tale Ending” definitely includes some loud and potentially frightening content — we’ve had a few children even older than your son cover their eyes and ears, or display other signs of being momentarily uncomfortable; a (very) few have left the theatre, as you did. As you point out, we didn’t write the show with the under-7 set in mind. We’re extremely grateful for reviews like yours, which help parents to be more informed about our show before purchasing tickets — we’ll definitely include a link to this review in our promotional materials.
That being said, at least a hundred kids aged 1-7 have seen “Fairy Tale Ending” in its thirty-plus performances, with almost universally positive responses. As with all art, the experience depends on the particular audience member on the particular day in question. We’ve had 18-month-olds who have danced (in a parent’s lap) and giggled their way through a performance. That’s exactly the reason we don’t give the show any explicit (and ultimately arbitrary) rating such as “7 and up”.
We sincerely hope that parents — especially those like Donny’s Mum, who have children of multiple ages — will still consider coming to see the show with all of their children, having sought recommendations from multiple sources (including friends who have seen the show) if possible.
As for the question of expense: If any audience member (or their child) ever has a bad experience at one of our shows, and they choose to leave the performance early as a result, we will promptly refund the ticket price in full.
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