Vaxxing and masking has brought out the age-old struggle of individualism vs solidarity, and Stiles & Drewe’s The 3 Little Pigs is the best platform for opening children’s imaginations. Described as a cute, fun, and whimsical musical by director Chris Lam, Carousel Youth Theatre’s version delights young and old with this unexpected take on the traditional folk tale.
“I’ve seen other reproductions of this show and I definitely wanted to go in a completely different direction – less poppy and bubblegum,” says Lam.
The musical stars Angela Chu, Frankie Cottrell, Steffanie Davis, Kamyar Pazandeh and Tanner Zerr and is at the Waterfront Theatre on Granville from Nov. 30 to Dec. 30.
An old tale still relevant for our times
The Stiles & Drew musical 3 Little Pigs is based on, but not-to-be confused with, the original more austere 1890s folktale by Joseph Jacobs.
In this recrafting of the much-loved, possibly somewhat gruesome classic, Lam notes that 3 little pigs is centered around the broader theme of family and being there for each other, or in the wise words of the old African adage: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.
It relates the journeys of how three pigs, who choose to strike out alone on a different path, come back together to foil the wolf.
Lam describes these as very powerful moments. The key point for the audience is they see that by working together, the three little pigs are able to be victorious.
“With theater, it’s always been a good opportunity for conversation and starting a dialogue, a way to interpret or use metaphors for our larger issues and hold a mirror in front of us so that we can examine, investigate and ask questions about the world, which is super important,” he says.
While honoring the genre of British panto of the original Stiles & Drew musical, Lam injects much weirdness and humor into the play: leaning more in the direction of dark Disney, anime and Grimms fairy tales.
“The audience is children and the temptation is to sanitize topics. Why not challenge their imaginations? But show characters that are a bit twisted or complex,” says Lam. “Try showing a different perspective – challenge the audience’s expectations of this familiar fairy tale.”
Lam on the value of theatre
Lam’s subversion of traditional expectations for the three little pigs is one way in which learning opportunities are created.
“If we’re looking at the three little pigs as a jumping-off point for how stories, folklore and mythology is adapted and interpreted, we can see how we as artists are making those emotional connections to the piece and sort of making it accessible and relevant,” he says.
This relevancy is what makes the piece engaging, entertaining and valuable to the schools it reaches.
But why should children be engaged in theater?
Lam points out theater has value in society, and that people’s engagement in it benefits them and their imaginations.
“With all the streaming services and movies, I think theater is still an opportunity to let people know that they still have agency in living in the imagination and finding power in the imagination,” says Lam.
Opening night is just a few days away. Lam heaps praise on the team of actors and production crew who are still laughing at the end of the long days under pressure to be ready in time.
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