Review: “Fairytales: Not Suitable for Children” (A Horse of a Different Color)

Show:  Fairytales: Not Suitable for Children

Isabella Karina Coelho, Casey Morris, Erik Strebig, Alex Seeley. Photo by Morgan Madison.
Isabella Karina Coelho, Casey Morris, Erik Strebig, Alex Seeley. Photo by Morgan Madison.

Company: A Horse of a Different Color

Venue: Little Theater

Die Roll: 11

Let me just get this out of the way first: I love playing with modes of storytelling in a theatrical piece. I absolutely appreciate seeing actors break out of the usual old-school forms and engage freely with an audience. Thus, when I found that I would be watching a show that is intended to be an “immersive musical spectacle”, I was prepared for a unique experience.

Fairytales: Not Suitable for Children has a lot going on – a whole lot. And that’s a problem. There are so many interesting questions it asks, like: “What is the point at which you realized you weren’t a child anymore”, and “How do the fairy stories we loved as kids change as we get older?” Those two questions complement each other well, and if the production had stuck to exploring just them, it might have been easier to understand. Instead, there are a bunch of non sequitor scenes, such as a series of musical theater send-ups/homages, that interrupt what I thought was the theme of the show to go somewhere else completely, and which are then abandoned. It’s frustrating, and it made me question the point of the whole show. Are we watching an exploration of our changing relationships to fairy tales as we age, or a story about young actors trying to make it in Chicago on the musical theater stage? Or is it a performance art piece created by these four excellent young talents about their individual coming-of-age-stories?

While it’s completely overstuffed, it’s also very enjoyable because the acting, singing, music and dancing are outstanding. Still, having to make left turns constantly to figure out if a particular segment connects to any of the others is exhausting, and after a while, I just gave up. If Fairytales had been marketed as some sort of cabaret I might be more forgiving of its lack of through-line, but it just dissolved into too many disconnected segments too frequently.

A huge factor to consider if you want to see this show is seating. Be aware that it runs approximately 100 minutes with no intermission. No biggie, right? Except that you will be sitting on the floor the whole time, crammed cheek by jowl in two rows with about thirty other people. I went in willingly, but my butt fell asleep about ten minutes in and getting to my feet after the show was an adventure. It’s just uncomfortable unless you’re a flexible young thing in your twenties – in which case, go nuts and enjoy.

All right, I’ve voiced my concerns, which are mostly script problems. Here’s where it’s totally worth it: the actors and pianist.  Isabella Karina Coelho, Casey Morris, Alex Seeley, and Erik Strebig shine as the four tour guides/minions of pianist and maestro Anthony Sanders, who has composed some striking songs and is an all-around kick-ass musician. They all love what they’re doing, they’re doing it well, and they are bursting to share it with the audience. That made up for so much. If you’re in the mood for some fun interactive theatre, and you don’t worry too much about a storyline, and you’re not too creaky to sit on the floor for an hour and a half, then you’ll get a kick out of this show.

TEN WORD SUMMARY:  Great performances, but a jumbled script. Show needs an editor.

RATING: d8  – “Not Bad,  Not Great.”