Bad Tots Plot:
In Shockheaded Peter at the Little Shubert badly behaved Victorian
tots come to nasty ends. Based on a picture book written in
1845, by German Dr. Heinrich Hoffman, for his 3-year-old son,
the show, both silly and outrageously scary, is pegged to kids
10 and up, who like their goose bumps with giggles, and adults.
Smartly staged by Julian
Crouch (a co-creator, co-director with Phelim McDermott)
and Graeme Gilmour, (also a performer), the clever set resembles
a Victorian pop-up picture book, with multiple doors, windows,
and trapdoor all constantly in motion by the cast. The old
stories themselves compare today with Maurice Sendak’s
fantastically illustrated tales.
Master of Ceremonies
is the down-at-the-heels elegant and ghoulish Julian Bleach,
who takes a long haughty look at the audience and before
proclaiming: “I am the greatest actor
in the world.” He is assisted throughout by The Tiger
Lillies, a funky cabaret band, fronted by accordionist and
falsetto singer, Martyn Jacques, who is hauled like a rag doll
puppet out of the trap door to serve as a perpetually grinning
troubadour. Jacques also composed the music and lyrics adapted
from the Hoffman’s tales designed to scare a kid good.
Adrian Stout backs him up on the double bass and Adrian Huge
plays on drums as well as pots and pans.
All help tell the story of Shockheaded Peter, an ugly child
with a mop of unruly curls and talon-like nails, born to beautiful,
prosperous parents, so horrified by his looks that they banish
him below the floorboards. While the couple becomes transformed
before tenderly recognizing their child, the show imparts colorful
tales of wicked children and their punishments.
These include cruel
Frederick who tortures animals, chubby Augustus who doesn’t
like his soup, and foolish Harriet who plays with matches
while her pussycat looks on. Also, there are the thumb-sucker
Conrad and fidgety Phil. All meet delightfully awful ends.
There are clever puppets,
too. I especially liked the marionette sequence about the
hare that turns a hunter’s gun on
him. A small cast of versatile actors enacts all the roles
and manipulates the puppets. If you don’t get to this
show, you’re punishing yourself. ($67.50; $27 at 10PM
Thursdays. Group sales, 212-239-6262).#