Starring Kevin Forster, Matthew Krist, Joe Law. Written by Matthew Krist. Directed by Amira Emma Routledge, Matthew Krist. Lagoon Theatre (Toronto Islands), to Aug. 26.
If you’re looking to find Nemo, he’s on the Toronto Islands this summer. That’s Little Nemo, mind you—the sleepyhead hero of Winsor McCay’s century-old comic strip, Little Nemo in Slumberland. The Frolick Theatre troupe’s Adventures in Slumberland show, playing in the Lagoon Theatre on Olympic Island, brings the boy and his whimsical dreamworld to life using puppets, masks, stilt-walking, and music.
These are the perfect means to evoke McCay’s original artwork, which was inspired by commedia dell’arte and the circus. As conceived by Frolick’s director-designer, Amira Emma Routledge, Little Nemo (a squeaky-voiced Kevin Forster) plunges into Slumberland through the gaping mouth of a laughing moon. Slumberland’s ruler, King Morpheus (Joe Law), is a huge papier-mâché rod puppet with a rag-mop beard. His daughter, the Princess (Maria Wodzinska), rides a lovable elephant puppet that looks like a giant stuffed toy.
Visually, the show is a treat. Matthew Krist’s script, however, can be as bewildering for adults as it doubtless is for kids. It presupposes we know more about the comic—last published in 1927—than we do. The music, too, leaves something to be desired: The disconcerting theme is “Wake Up Little Nemo,” sung to the tune of the Everly Brothers’ “Wake Up Little Susie,” which effectively takes us out of Slumberland and into a 1950s drive-in. The show can be seen Wednesday through Sunday and is best appreciated by children six and older.