Friday, November 29, 2013

Review: (Toronto) The Little Mermaid

Ross Petty (photo by Rachel McCaig)
Holy Carp!
Petty’s Panto is Poised to Please Even the Most Picky of Patrons
by Stuart Munro

Hello friends! The holidays are once again upon us, and that can only mean one thing – it’s time for Ross Petty’s 18th Annual Pantomime! I don’t mind telling you this is one of my favourite holiday traditions here in Toronto, and right from the brilliant opening number (about copyright law and the wonders of public domain. Seriously . . .) to the inspired finale (what does the fox say?!), this year’s production of The Little Mermaid had me cheering the heroes, booing the villains, and howling in my seat!

Helping to lead this year’s production to success is Stratford alum Chilina Kennedy as Angel, the titular Little Mermaid. Thanks to Reid Janisse’s clever book, this mermaid is no flighty princess (unlike a certain princess currently at another theatre a few doors north of the Elgin). Rather, she’s a self-assured, strong woman who has no interest in the world above her. Her primary concern? To help clean up her home, Toronto Harbour, from all the mess those pesky humans have thrown into it over the years. Ms Kennedy’s forthright manner and killer voice easily put her in control of any situation.

After becoming human and journeying to the surface to try and stop a casino development in the harbour (sound familiar?), Angel is joined on the surface by her three sisters (Jacqueline Burtney, Lindsay Croxall, and Judy Kovacs), as well as her best friend/clown fish-turned-human, Carl (Reid Janisse). Janisse’s comic antics are top notch, and his few brief scenes with panto perennial and fellow comic genius, Eddie Glen (as Sponge Bill Triangle Pants) are definite highlights.

While on the surface, Angel meets Adam (Marc Devigne in his panto debut), a young singer-songwriter-activist who wants to save the harbour from Ogopogo’s casino plans. Devigne is a wonderful addition to the panto company – his clean-cut good lucks, smooth voice, and honest and sincere nature make him a natural love interest for Angel (to say nothing of his pecs and abs which are probably worth the price of admission all on their own).

As grand dame Plumbum, Stratford alum Dan Chameroy swishes across the stage in roller skates, a halter-top, and style; and Ross Petty proves again that he has the role of villain down to a Tee as the monstrous Ogopogo (a mythical sea creature from my home on Vancouver Island “where there’s enough grass to keep Justin Trudeau’s campaign going for years! Well … maybe weeks”).

This year’s show is directed by Tracey Flye who manages to keep the pacing fast while never letting it become frenetic, and Marc Kimelman’s energetic choreography spans the gamut from vaudeville to an extraordinary faux-sign language/interpretive dance sequence set to Taylor Swift’s “Everything has changed.”

While I’d’ve liked maybe a few more topical references (only two Rob Ford and one senate joke?), The Little Mermaid is riotously funny and delights in every possible way, proving that the panto is a fixture worthy of staying in Toronto for years to come.

The Little Mermaid runs Nov. 22 - Jan. 4

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