When you wish upon a star…
That’s exactly what audience members were asked to do before this charming cabaret show about chasing your dreams within the most unusual of circumstances. All those dreams and wishes were pegged to a couple of fish lines across the black box performance space upstairs at the Spare Parts Puppet Theatre.
Performer Emma Davis then proceeded to tell us about her dreams which were brought into sharp relief on watching Disney’s The Little Mermaid when she was a toddler. As for the unusual circumstances, well, Emma is the 11th child of 12 with three brothers and eight sisters! A recurring theme became the quest to gain the attention of mum and dad and all the obstacles growing up in such a large family. This was given greater resonance by the presence of Mum in the audience along with three of Emma’s sisters.
The show is a combination of audience participation (yes, I’m proud to announce my on stage singing debut, a rousing rendition of Puff the Magic Dragon with my fellow audience members), Disney songs with modified lyrics to suit, and engaging tales of family activities such as Christmas Day, picnics, and regular visits to the movies.
These stories were amusing logistical nightmares that come with invading a park or cinema in such numbers. But it’s the impact of the movies that shaped Emma’s ambition to become a performer, a Disney princess, and eventually to visit that ultimate dream factory. There are disappointments along the way leading to a lovely conclusion that again had more weight with Emma’s husband present doing the tech work. Indeed, Emma ‘directing’ Ben from the stage when sound cues were slightly wrong added to the charm and good-natured vibe throughout.
The other movies cited were Aladdin and Pocahontas. Now, I’m not a Disney aficionado – my formative movies growing up were Star Wars and Alien – but Emma’s passion and knowledge was clearly on display. I had no doubt she cried four steps into a Disney World every single time. And that’s the secret here – the authenticity of Emma’s story and the elements that influenced her as a person and performer. In many ways this reminded me of Allan Girod’s Absolutely… with songs. Both have a fundamental honesty, warts and all, that is engaging. I asked Emma’s mum afterwards how accurate it all was and she smiled and said they certainly knew how to clear a camping park!
To my shame I didn’t recognise the songs (did I mention Leia and Ellen Ripley were my movie princesses?) but Emma has a lovely singing voice that was featured to best effect in a homage to Disney then an ode to being a mermaid. Normally I am very reticent about being an active participant at the theatre but there was such an enthusiasm and delight here that it was hard not to get caught up in it all. Kudos to the gentleman plucked from the row behind me who, in a funny sequence, ‘played’ Emma’s youngest sister, Amy who I’m sure watched on bemused!
Emma returned to do an impromptu encore to warm applause and as we walked downstairs I was only left to wonder what all those other star shaped dreams left hanging on stage might have been…
Once Upon A Time stars Emma Davis and has one more performance upstairs at Spare Parts Puppet Theatre in Fremantle, 6pm, Saturday 1 November.