Oscar E Moore

From the rear mezzanine theatre, movies and moore

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Revisionist, cross-gendered retelling of Babes in Toyland

July 24th, 2009 by Oscar E Moore

They can’t be serious.  I mean, the folks over at the OHIO Theatre on Wooster Street. A while back they were threatened with losing the space because they could not renew their lease.  Well they’ve got a new lease on life but I would surely evict their current tenant, the revisionist, cross-gendered retelling of Victor Herbert’s Babes in Toyland.

As presented by The Little Lord Fauntleroys, it is a children’s show not for children.  Nor is it for adults.  Directed by Michael Levinton with an assist by Jose Zayas, it is adapted by Michael Levinton from Glen MacDonough’s 1903 libretto.  Michael Levinton also partakes in the overindulgent, silly activities on stage.  I did some research as I wondered how this toy train wreck could have survived all these years. 

The operetta opened on Broadway in 1903 and ran 192 performances.  Due to the elaborate sets and costumes and two of Victor Herbert’s songs that became standards – Toyland and March of the Toys.  A Disney movie version was made in 1961 and was an “abject failure” at the box office.  I am not surprised.

In this version, I suffered through what I thought would be one act.  Only to be informed that a short break was to occur and that we could stretch and watch a vintage cartoon of Mary Had a Little Lamb on a TV screen.  It wasn’t any better than what had just witnessed.  A few audience members not only stretched but escaped into the humid night air.  Just in case you do want to see this show make sure that you are well hydrated as there is little, if any, air conditioning.  Beer is available.

If  interested, you can Google the inane plot.  We are instructed to use our imagination while watching “live” theatre.  But this show is almost comatose and you’ll need more than imagination and beer to get through it.  Some of the costumes (Asta Bennie Hostetter) are clever, within the limited budget of the production.  But the evening is a flat as the painted sets (Jason Simms) that cleverly represent the house of The Old Woman who lives in a shoe, the spider forest and Toyland itself.

To make matters worse none of the actors are identified in the program as to what characters they are portraying.  Self-protection, I wonder?   I can only say that the major reason I wanted to see this show was that David Greenspan was cast.  I had seen him and loved him in the incredibly imaginative and funny Cornbury.  Here he is the Widow Piper and the evil toymaker.  He gives a wonderfully professional performance which adds some levity to the heavy handed proceedings but that is not enough.  I also enjoyed Mother Goose who doubles in a tutu in Toyland and plays piano and organ for the show.  The guy in a diaper, Wee Willie Winkie who also plays a little lamb and the hot pink moth Queen comes off quite well.  They’ll know who they are even if no one else does.


NOTE:  I had requested and have just received an e-mail with the Babes in Toyland cast and roles.  Mother Goose and Toyland Doll is Rodney Pallanck and John Kurzynowski is Wee Willie, Fleecy and Linda the Fairy Moth Queen.

Photo:  Yi Zhao

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