Babes in Toyland
cute for parents, less so for others
If I were a parent, I would be tickled pink and proud of my offspring for their rousing and enthusiastic performances in Theatre in the Grove's 'Babes in Toyland.' Their eagerness at playing the familiar characters from the Mother Goose nursery rhymes emanated the pages of those well-known verses. Jack and Jill, Little Jack Horner, Little Bo Peep, and Mary Had a Little Lamb tumbled across the stage with buoyant and youthful play as the 'Babes in Toyland' and 'Mother Goose Celebration' musical numbers showcased their zeal and their fun with their roles. Complimenting their cheerful ambiance are their colorful outfits coordinated by the costuming team of Milly Cockayne, Robin Rose and Marilyn Dober. Their efforts indubitably heightened the exuberance factor by the children.
'Babes in Toyland,' based on the Victor Herbert story and adapted by R. J. Ryland and Bill Francouer is the stock good versus evil conundrum with good ultimately triumphant. The fiendish Barnaby is determined to marry Mistress Mary Quite Contrary even if it means threatening her mother with homelessness. The ensuing yarn involves gypsies, elves, intellectually-challenged henchmen, and life-like dolls - all done to song and dance.
It's challenging to launch a stage musical with a story that relatively substance free as evidenced by the opening night's production. Hampered by those opening-night jinxes, 'Babes in Toyland' wasn't as strong as some of the other recent musicals staged by Theatre in the Grove.
The stage's full depth was not fully utilized and, as a result, limited the actors' movements making the choreography look cumbersome. I wished the set could have been a bit more elegantly dressed to showcase the nursery rhyme themes and the Toyland world.
It was difficult to strike a balance between the voices and the orchestra. And the lack of drums and the use of recorded music during the play's showstopper musical number - the March of the Toy Soldiers - was my biggest disappointment.
Another rehearsal or two would have been beneficial for this production to help them smooth out some stumbling blocks such as actors pausing to remember lines, slow pacing and problematic set changes. With a few more performances, the actors' confidence will increase their energy levels to help make this a livelier production.
But for the parents in all of us, enjoy the fun these children had on stage.