LOVE YOU FOREVER… AND MORE MUNSCH Adapted by Stephen Colella and Sue Miner from stories by Robert Munsch, directed by Miner. At Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People (165 Front East). To April 4. $15-$20. 416-862-2222, lktyp.ca. Rating: NNN
The brilliant Robert Munsch often inserts a little mischief into his kid characters, so I was concerned that Stephen Colella and Sue Miner’s stage adaptation Love You Forever… And More Munsch might make my boys unruly.
Fortunately, aside from much laughter, it only inspired repeated rounds of Mortimer’s “Clang, clang, rattle-bing-bang” song on the car trip home.
When we enter the theatre, Robin Fisher’s whimsical, supersized bedroom set grabs our attention. It’s a very familiar environment, and my eight-year-old excitedly recognizes the games on the toy shelf. The set also includes a massive wardrobe, perfect for costume changes and surprise entrances, and a bunk bed with an attached firefighter pole, enabling director Miner to utilize many levels.
The production uses music (African rhythms, soft piano and boing-y electronica) and lighting to guide us smoothly through transitions from story to story, and the three energetic adult actors (Scott Leaver, Jennifer Rayner and Adrienne Merrell) play kids, grown-ups and make-believe characters without a hint of condescension.
Leaver, who opens the play as Mortimer and remains onstage throughout, physically reverts to boyhood. He rarely stays still, with some hilarious results. Merrell exudes strength and determination as the Paperbag Princess, and Rayner, who expertly handles many quick changes, charmingly portrays everyone from a dragon to Mortimer’s frustrated but loving mom.
The production breaks with convention by incorporating American Sign Language and having all of the performers sign as they speak. This works well because Colella and Miner keep the dialogue spare, using actions more than language to tell the stories.
The problem is the choice of stories. While Mortimer, The Paper Bag Princess and Zoom! excite with humour and energy, Mermel, Mermel, Mermel and the melancholic Love You Forever don’t contain nearly as much physical action, allowing the pint-size crowd to get fidgety.