JACOB TWO-TWO MEETS THE HOODED FANG by Mordecai Richler, music and lyrics by Dennis Lee, Phil Balsam, Jim Betts and Allen Cole, directed by Allen MacInnis, with Yanick Allwood, Deann de Gruijter, Bruce Dow, Paul McQuillan, Edward Belanger, Ryan Field and Jessica Greenberg. Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People (165 Front East). Runs to January 4, Saturday 2 and 7 pm, Sunday various 11 am and 3 pm, some Friday, and holiday schedule December 22-31. $18-$28. 416-862-2222. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Child power still rules - rightly - at the Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People 25 years after Jacob Two-Two Meets The Hooded Fang premiered at the theatre. Jacob, who's two-plus-two-plus-two and the youngest in his family, is constantly pushed around by his siblings and ignored by his parents. He has to say everything twice just to be heard. Sent on a grown-up errand and humiliated again, he falls asleep and - Wizard Of Oz style - has an ultimately empowering dream that incorporates elements of wishes and real-life events.
Director Allen MacInnis 's version of the Mordecai Richler story finds lots of the story's humour and entertainment for kids and their parents. The musical numbers - vaudeville, gospel and various pop styles - are fun and toe-tapping, though the lyrics aren't always clearly delivered. Michael Eagan 's sets loom, as they would for a youngster, and his costumes turn Master Fish into a lobster and Mistress Fowl into a bossy mother hen.
It's the casting that makes the show truly delightful. How great, first off, that the theatre continues its long tradition of diversity in casting by presenting a family whose members are black, Asian and white.
Deann de Gruijter and Edward Belanger double as busy parents and gurgling Fish and clucking Fowl, the latter a fine source of comedy. Bruce Dow makes a great feast of nebbishy lawyer Louis Loser and the nefarious Mr. Fox. Best of all is Paul McQuillan 's not-so-nasty Fang, here an adenoidally challenged, buff wrestler who likes to pose - he has all the right moves - and play saxophone.
The only troubling figure is Yanick Allwood 's Jacob (he alternates with Isaiah Grant ), who's better with musical numbers than dialogue. Kids' roles are hard to pull off, especially when they're central to the action, but Allwood's work is often too flat to register the surprise, sadness and joy of Jacob's journey.