Interrupting Infinity Exclusive Commentary. © 2010 by David St.-Lascaux
Chris Krenning, Michael Goldlist and Victoria Pace in Mimi and Gustav in Love and Pirates.
Denis Woychuk’s Mimi and Gustav in Love and Pirates
Kraine Theater, through December 19, 2010
IN A TOUCHING, MUSICAL REPRISE of his adorable children’s book, Denis Woychuk has lovingly brought an effervescent pair of animal characters to the stage, under the direction of Stephen Brennan, at Kraine Theater in the Village. Mimi and Gustav in Love and Pirates, the improbable tale of love between a mouse and a hippopotamus, and their later, romantic travails, is the perfect holiday season matinée for young children and adults alike.
The story, in a nutshell: Acoustic guitarist/singer/actor Michael Goldlist introduces the action in the guise of a talking parrot, getting everyone’s attention by “mistaking” the sounds of various animals (no, the children insist to him, cats don’t go “woof-woof”). As the action begins, the hero mouse (Gustav, played by singer/actor Chris Krenning) hears who he thinks is another mouse singing, and falls in love. The heroine hippo (Mimi, played by singer/actress Victoria Pace in a darling costume) hears who she thinks is an amorous hippo, and falls in love. After failed attempts by this lovestruck pair to get over or through the wall, the wall is broken – by Mimi, and she and Gustav must reconcile the fact that the imagined loved one isn’t the animal each expected. Subsequently, a crocodile pirate, also played by Goldlist, whom the children know to be the narrator, and therefore not too scary, kidnaps Mimi and puts her in jail, the key to which resides around the neck of a sleeping cat, played coyly by choreographer/actress Diana Byrne. A happy ending follows the gaining of the key and a requisite, mouse-vs.-pirate, benign sword fight. After the curtain, the children (and adults, in certain cases) are given wash-off tattoo treats.
The upbeat songs, composed in a major key by Caitlin Rodgers and performed stage left on electric guitar by her (and acoustically by Goldlist), are Goldilocks “just right.” From Goldlist’s nonsense opening seesaw to Krenning’s and Pace’s solos and duets, the urge to smile and sing along is irresistible. Both the “book” and the book, in other words, are delightful, and everyone’s singing is enthusiastic and natural. Choreographer Byrne deserves special recognition for the staging of the tennis match physical repartee in the opening scene.
It would be especially fun to read the book with one’s child before seeing Mimi and Gustav, although it’s certainly not necessary. Whether one picks up a copy of the book before or after (or not), Mimi and Gustav will remain a memorable event in a child’s life – for the tale it tells about imagination, optimism, love, acceptance, diversity and pluck. Its sophisticated structure is made to seem simple, so that young children can easily follow the storyline. When the word gets out, Mimi and Gustav is predicted to have a great future in elementary musical education. In the meantime, this charmer will give parents, grandparents and guardians a wonderful and rare opportunity to share a magical, enriching story with their children. It’s a perfect story, perfectly performed, for children – and lovers – of all ages.
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