By Gayle Edmunds
The school holidays are in full swing. Why not take your children to the theatre? Here are some of the wonderful productions on offer.
PUSS IN BOOTS
Gold Reef City's The Lyric theatre
Until July 27
If you're regular pantomime-goers in Durban you'll be familiar with KickstArt Theatre's annual festival of silliness. This year they're changing it up – not only have they brought their latest offering to Jozi, they're doing it throughout the winter school holidays.
Puss in Boots, originally written in 1695, is about a wily cat who does what he can to get his rather dozy master a royal bride. This long (but fun) mashup uses this version of the story, but with a good injection of Antonio Banderas' inspired passion.
Earl Gregory dons the fabled boots, whiskers and Latin flair as Puss, with Skeem Saam's Sean John Louw as his master, Tom Marzipan. Darren King, ever the panto dame, dons a donut-inspired ensemble as Mother Marzipan; Michael Richard revels in the role of Grimsby Withergood – the bad goblin; and Ilse Klink wears her wings as the good fairy, Calypso Honeybunch.
Londiwe Dhlomo-Dlamini, who most recently starred in Priscilla Queen of the Desert as one of the three divas, is Princess Miranda; relative newcomer Yamikani Mahaka-Phiri is her father King Magnum; while Zak Hendrikz and Caitlin Kilburn round out the cast as Tristram Marzipan and Selina Swiftclaw.
With a cast of just 15, the team manages to make this feel like a big, bright, traditional pantomime and, despite the first half being a whopping 75 minutes, the two eight-year-olds I took with me loved it. There's also enough adult humour to keep the parents in their seats. This is a good holiday afternoon filler.
THE ADVENTURES OF MR TOAD
National Children's Theatre, Parktown
Until July 23
This latest offering from the National Children's Theatre under the direction of Francois Theron is based on Kenneth Grahame's classic, The Wind in the Willows. It takes up the story of Rat (Bradley Nowikow) and Badger (JT Medupe), who, with the bewildered help of their new friend, Mole (John Tsenoli), must try to save their crazy and impulsive friend Toad (Gamelihle Bovana), who is his own worst enemy.
It's all very well when Mr Toad takes to the road in a horse-drawn carriage, but when he's run off the road by a car, things take a fast and dangerous turn – because he wants one! And when he gets one, he crashes it and wants another. Which is how he ends up in jail and his grand home, Toad Hall, ends up in the hands of the weasels.
The most incredible thing about this production is how cleverly the team uses the space to create an intimate environment for children to enjoy the theatre. The children huddle at the front of the stage, their noses in the action, and they love it. The songs are wonderful, the set a crafty use of space and, most of all, the cast is dressed to capture the essence of the animals they portray with boundless amounts of energy.
This is a must for the holiday theatre calendar.
DISNEY ON ICE
R175 to R400 at computicket.com
Slick and professional, Disney on Ice never puts a skate wrong. However, it's a show that children love and parents don't. It isn't that the show isn't magical and the content familiar, it's the extras – the popcorn, which comes with a little bag, costs R100, ditto the candy floss, which comes with a Nemo hat. The stalls and stalls of merchandise – from fantastic glowing wands to plush Nemos – mean you must not forget to negotiate terms with your children before arriving.
This year's ice-skating extravaganza began with The Lion King, before Snow White is enticed into taking a bite of a poisoned apple. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves – the first animated film put out by Walt Disney – is 80 years old this year. It feels like such an old-fashioned story next to the likes of Tangled and Frozen, both of which feature in this year's offering, but it does show just how far the Disney princess has come in those eight decades.
Aladdin, which turns a mere 25 years old this year, also features, as does Toy Story and Finding Dory. But the one all the children were waiting for was Frozen and the cast of skaters didn't disappoint. It was spectacular and one little girl stood on her chair and belted out every single word of Let it Go – with gestures. This alone was worth going for.
It's expensive, but it caters to all children who love Disney, so dig deep for a visit if you haven't been before.