One of the dying forms of simple, yet delightful performance is the burlesque. And while I enjoy the reinvigorated neo-burlesque movement throughout the city, I'm referring more to the original sense: the satirical, goofy, campy renderings of other performances, politics, or themes of the day.
Which is what makes the Little Lord Fauntleroys's Babes in Toyland so delightful. Not a faithful revival, yet not a totally profane tribute a la Ridiculous Theatre, Babes is billed as a "Recession Spectacular," created from the stuff theatrical dreams are made of, like cardboard flats, hand-made and found props, and creative uses for sock puppets. Much of the soundtrack, even, is played on little cassette players, which I think is awesome, not to mention the overhaul of queerness the company has taken, with tons of gender-bending and dark undertones that make classic children's stories so quietly terrifying (the dark themes, not the gender-bending, mind you).
The almost two-hour performance is exhausting in its manic energy, and praise must be given to the cast for maintaining such slapstick silliness for so prolonged a period. David Greenspan as the Master Toymaker, Laura von Holt as Contrary Mary, and Michael Levinton as the mustache-twirling villain Barnaby in particular carry the piece through with incredible comedic timing and Red-Bull-caliber energy.
The middle ground that the piece takes in the way of satire is for the most part enjoyable, and only detrimental to the overall idea when something particularly charming comes along, such as the cassette-soundtrack. When bona fide music and sound effects blast through the Ohio's speakers, it's such an intrusion and shock, you yearn for the creative, low-fi possibility these devices hold. When camp is too polished, it somehow seems creepier than the original bad boy-girl. But you've still got to hand it to the Fauntleroys, who are having a great time all the way through.