Tuesday, 14 April 2015

WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE: Hugely enjoyable Furry Tales blends musical fantasy and magical realism

ANOTHER WORLD: Student actors shine in scenes from the play at the Dennis Scott Theatre.

Educational fun and pleasant diversion are what we usually think of when it comes to good children's theatre. Jamaican kids and kids at heart are bound to find all that and more to enjoy in Furry Tales, a whip-smart and vibrantly appealing School of Drama production that takes classic fairy-tale storylines and spins them on their heads for a cautionary tale about human nature and rising to the occasion.

The musical score doesn't always hit the mark and the lighting and set design are largely one-note, but kudos are due to writer Joel Doty for taking these well-known stories and twirling them around in his vivid imagination to create magic on the stage  and director Pierre LeMaire whose directorial brio and steady hand keep things buoyantly afloat.

With nods to Sesame Street and Into the Woods, Furry Tales, set in Fairytaleland, comes replete with fantasy and a spirit of adventure. As the story unfolds, the audience learns that the characters have wandered off from their respective stories, colliding with each other in a sense, because people have stopped reading! 

As such, the various plot lines begin to either interweave or take on whole new dimensions. It's pure chaos. Humpty Dumpty (Toni-Ann Johnson), for instance, doesn't want to sit on a wall; he wants to build a mall. Jack (Rajeave Mattis) has seemingly dumped Jill for a fling with Rapunzel (Toni-Ann Lalor), and Papa Bear, Mama Bear and Baby Bear (but no Goldilocks) find themselves way in over their heads. Cinderella (Ashley Anderson) and Snow White (Monique Hill), on the other hand, are now witches! But the biggest problem of all: the furry creatures can't find their tails. Pun intended. 

When Mayor Owl (O'neisha Heron) can no longer stand the heat, she dispatches a trio of the animals on an adventure aimed at finding a solution to these shocking developments. Enter Lila (Kaydian Ancel), a precocious little 'humanoid' who is kidnapped from the park and brought back to the forest to help set things right. What happens when human and creature, fantasy and magical realism, collide provides the show with its memorable climax. 

Above all, what Furry Tales forces us to ponder are the striking parallels between real folks and storybook people, but especially the desire to belong and the search for a happy ending. Tyrone's Verdict: B+

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