Kids Theatre: Staged family magic
Here come the school holidays and children’s activity schedules to fill. Gayle Edmunds rounds up the theatre offerings for those staying in Joburg this festive season.
Puppet Geppetto (Tobie Cronje) and Pinocchio (Kanyi Nokwe) ()
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A Seussified Christmas Carol

National Children’s Theatre, Parktown
Until December 23
R100 to R120
011 484 1584/5 to book

I confess that the National Children’s Theatre is my favourite theatre – going to the old house in Parktown, where the children can sit cross-legged on the floor and watch as the action unfolds all around you is a treat.

Director Francois Theron never puts a foot wrong and this exuberant, more than a little Suess-y version of the classic Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol will delight young and old.

The brilliant adult cast of only seven are supplemented with alternate casts of three children as they whip through time to show The Scrooge (“Bah, Humbug”) why the spirit of Christmas matters – and not just during the festive season.

All donned in the signature outfit of black and white stripes with red accents, made infamous by Dr Suess’ infamous Cat in the Hat, the cast rhyme the whole story as the three ghosts haunt Scrooge into a more amiable frame of mind.

You might also keep a keen eye out to spot that mischievous cat.

Cinderella on Ice

Montecasino’s Teatro
December 1 to January 7
R150 to R425 at computicket.co.za

If you haven’t managed to catch the Russian skating sensation that is Cinderella on Ice, now’s the time to do so.

The skaters are all former champions and the stunts, twirls and jumps are frankly jaw-dropping.

The 24-strong cast of Olympic, World, European and National Championship level skaters comprise the cream of Russian skating talent. The majority of the skaters have been trained by Russia’s leading coaches – some from as early as three years of age – and between them they have won more than 300 competition medals.

Their previous shows that have also come to South African over the years are The Sleeping Beauty on Ice, The Nutcracker on Ice and Swan Lake on Ice. The company put their own special spin on the story of Cinderella, but really it is about the spectacle of seeing high speed throws and incredible lift sequences that you’d usually have to travel to the Winter Olympics to see in the flesh. A performance well worth the ticket price.

Shrek: The Musical JR

The People’s Theatre, Braamfontein
Until December 24
R142 at joburgtheatre.com

What makes Shrek a perennial favourite is that the characters blast the stereotype of what makes a hero and what makes a damsel-in-distress to smithereens. Shrek the ogre is the hero with a talking donkey for a noble steed and best friend. The princess they rescue could probably do it herself were she not so fixated on waiting for her prince charming to save her.

On the People’s Theatre stage the characters tell the tale of an ogre trying to save his swamp, and along the way he discovers that sometimes you need a little help from your friends and that love lives in the strangest of places.

The children enjoyed the show, the costumes were grand – with a special mention for the pink sparkly dragon and her lush eyelashes – and the performances energetic.

Luciano Zuppa plays Shrek; Megan van Wyk is Princess Fiona; and Sibusiso Mkhize is Donkey.

Pinocchio

Mandela Theatre at Joburg Theatre, Braamfontein
Until December 30
R110 to R365 at joburgtheatre.com

This year’s pantomime feels like Christmas! It is fresh and energetic, as silly as it should be and very entertaining.

This year’s Pinocchio is director Janice Honeyman’s 30th pantomime, and I recommend Pinocchio to fulfil its purpose – to official kick off the silly season – in the true tradition of the annual pantomime.

Tobie Cronje, South Africa’s own Mr Panto, is back as Geppetto for the second time, after featuring in Honeyman’s first rendition Pinocchio back in 2009. As “too shy to try” Geppetto, he decides to make his own family by carving a puppet boy out of wood, who is then given the chance to be a real boy by Bella Bouboulina, the Blues Fairy (played by Ilse Klink). All Pinocchio has to do is prove his worth and listen to his conscience, in the form of Jiminy Cricket (Mark Tatham). It all turns out to be easier said than done, and so the adventure begins.

The villains put in Pinocchio’s path to lead him astray – Il Fortunto, the Fox; Pussy Galore, the Cat; and Strombolio – are played with wicked glee by André Schwartz (best known as SA’s first Phantom of the Opera); Chi Mhende (from TV’s Generations: The Legacy); and Garth Collins (Granite in TV’s Gladiators), respectively.

As tradition dictates, no one whose stupidity made the news in 2017 gets away unscathed. Following Dove’s racist ad blunder, the company provides the fodder for a particularly funny gag. Politicians get the ragging they always deserve, while the cast is polished, and the sets and costumes are colourful and sparkling. The production’s songs are known to kids who bop along, while I particularly enjoyed the dance sequences. Also, look out for the train to Candy Land as well as the absolutely hilarious (and dextrous) Donkey Song. Wow, what a feat.

Loud, funny and more than a little crazy, put Pinocchio on your holiday activity calendar – you won’t regret it.

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