ELEPHANT & PIGGIE'S "WE ARE IN A PLAY!"
Carousel Theatre for Young People, Waterfront Theatre, until March 31
Photo: Tim Matheson
My Two Pence
Sometimes when you are an adult it's great to have children as an excuse to do fun things; climbing trees, building sandcastles or snowmen, playing tag, probably the most precious activity - enjoying content specifically for children. But don't be confused, I have considered buying many of the incredible original Elephant & Piggie books by Mo Willems when I have read them to my niece. They are so nuanced, fun, and well done that it is impossible as an adult to not enjoy them. The same could be said for this sparkling adaptation for the stage (also written by Willams, but with the addition of snazzy musical numbers by Deborah Wicks La Puma - that coincidentally have been stuck in my head since).
For those familiar with the books there are recognisable stories here, especially 'Should I share my Ice-Cream?' whose melting-magic-trick had all the children amazed, and the adults happily fooled along. It is this great mix of small technical delights (another mention could be the snip-snap toy, a pivotal moment for Elephant and Piggie's friendship) as well as a strong story and good momentum that holds this show together.
There are some well-known names in the cast. The formidable Tom Pickett is the reserved, bumbling Elephant whilst Kelly Ogmundson fits the exuberant, sassy Piggie to a tee. The addition of the Squirelettes trio (Lindsay Warnock, Synthia Yusef and Merewyn Comeau) is inspired as it produces rich, enjoyable vocal acrobatics and tight harmonies as well as fun asides to the main action on stage. The cast is solid, and certainly showed their enthusiasm and joyful approach to the show throughout.
It is hard to keep a young audience on track for an hour, and certainly, whilst I think the ballads in the show, for the most part, add important emotional notes there are probably one or two that could be shorter or cut altogether. Musical Director Arielle Ballance is a very sweet on stage addition, real-time sound effects and playing along with the emotions of the scenes. The set design is great, though not really noteworthy, it is bright and bold with clues to the stories we see in the show itself. Sophie Tang has some nice punctuations in her lighting design, particularly the coloured spots that 'Zip' and 'Zap' Elephant and Piggie on and off the stage.
This is a children's show, but I sincerely hope that you have some kiddies (or can locate some in your friend and family groups) so that you may have the excuse to enjoy it for yourself.
- Penny Warwick