The Adventures of Tom Shadow has nothing much to do with the adventures of a Peter Pan-like kidnapper who spirits two children away from their suburban beds. That’s just a little joke underpinning the wildly funny Theatre Lab comedy musical put together by an ensemble of Second City alumnae, all of them singers, movers and sketch-comedy artists.
John Chastain (Mark Little) is a Tolstoy scholar who met his wife Bev (Natalia Metcalfe) at university where she was studying to become a policewoman.
Their children, Martin (Christian Smith) and Angeline (Lisa Gilroy) have just been tucked in following the nightly reading from Anna Karenina (a discussion of the train suicide ensues) when a magical guy in a red silk top hat (Kevin Vidal) comes in to lure the kids off to his Cloud Kingdom.
Director Peter Stevens (The Irrelevant Show, Bad Dog Theatre, Elephant Empire) has shaped a show that is as tight as a drum, combining crazy mime, highly co-ordinated song and dance and a cascade of gags accompanied live on piano by musical director Jordan Armstrong. Tuneful social satire is incorporated into hilarious sketches in which Bev becomes an over-zealous cop on a quest to find her own children and gossipy neighbours join the search as a way to up their daily Fitbit steps.
Time and context are fluid in this fast-paced 90-minute show. The leap from talk of Anna Karenina to school bullies, for instance, is accomplished through the laughably cloying kissing song (“don’t let the Russian Orthodox Church get you down”). Back story scenes include wimpy John as a boy trying to get in with the Runaway Boys, by bouncing chin first down an impossibly steep skateboard chute (or so it seems).
Little and Metcalfe do a charmed duet as a couple divorcing, singing about “spiralling down” as husband John struggles to get a gold band off his ring finger, finally resorting, without dropping a note, to Vaseline.
Lisa Gilroy gets the horror show moment as Diane, a Hannibal Lector wheeled on stage in a prison straitjacket with a muzzle over her mouth. This is the climax of a scene where determined cop Bev goes to a woman’s maximum-security prison, “to get inside the mind of a monster.” Turns out the inmates share a common modus operandi: it’s a poop joke that actually works.
Fantasy and silliness and some very sly digs at contemporary society make for an action-packed entertainment that leaves you sidesplit but wanting more.
The Adventures of Tom Shadow
Written and performed by Lisa Gilroy, Mark Little, Natalie Metcalfe, Christian Smith and Kevin Vidal
Directed by Peter Stevens
Music by Jordan Armstrong
Lighting by Meg Maguire
Presented by Theatre Lab at Factory Theatre, Toronto
Oct. 11 to 14 and 17 to 21