“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, behind this very crimson curtain lie the portal to the darkest recesses of the human imagination...”
Some of the more aesthetically successful Broadway productions of recent years have been those exploring fairytale chronicles. Mary Zimmerman’s adaptation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses myths, Julie Taymor’s The Green Bird and even her Lion King are some of the magical stage productions that wildly pleased mass audiences while also satisfying theater cognoscenti with more esoteric, downtown sensibilities — children and adults alike.
Add to that list Shockheaded Peter, an inventive “junk opera” extrapolation of Heinrich Hoffman’s 19th-century frightening children’s stories, fresh off a UK Olivier-winning run. It follows a long tradition of fantastical, twisted theater vaudeville that both shocks and tickles. Utilizing song, dance, elaborate puppetry, and live musical performances by the brilliant cabaret/gypsy trio, the Tiger Lillies, Shockheaded Peter weaves funny, dark tales of little girls who play with matches and get burned to ashes, a thumb-sucking boy whose digits are snipped off by a mysterious scissors man, and an electric-haired baby, “Shockheaded Peter,” whose appearance is so frightful that his parents stash him away beneath the floorboards (he gets his revenge).
Though hilarious these are sinister, raunchy tales, more fit for adults than children, though a few in the theater seemed to enjoy themselves. The night is equal parts Edgar Allan Poe, French Grand Guignol, and Tom Waits in Robert Wilson’s The Black Rider. Evoking Monty Python as well as German expressionism, the night is a romp-filled crowd pleaser.
Little Shubert, 422 W 42nd St, 212-239-6200