The Magic Toy Shop (La Boutique Fantasque): a fun fusion of ballet and circus arts will delight the entire family! At the Upper Darby Performing Arts Center with two shows remaining, May 7th at 2 and 7pm.
Last night Cass and I met a friend and her daughter at the Upper Darby Performing Arts Center to see The Magic Toy Shop (La Boutique Fantasque). We had been supplied with press tickets, and I’d been super excited all week about this hour-long, family friendly collaboration between students from Narberth’s Pennsylvania Academy of Ballet Society and the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts.
I knew I would love it, and I thought Cass (who at almost 12, has become nearly impossible to impress) would be similarly enchanted.
The story behind The Magic Toy Shop (La Boutique Fantasque) in a nutshell, involves a toy shop where toys come to life, an exceptional little girl, and a love that endures despite the odds.
A little beggar girl meets a kind toy maker who brings two lover dolls to life, captivating the customers in the toy shop. Misfortune strikes when two different families haggle over the dolls, but then agree to purchase one doll each, separating the two forever. The little beggar girl devises a plan to keep the two together, but will it work?
As a performance, it certainly does. I myself have never seen a ballet I didn’t love, whether it’s professional performers or no. The physical performances are enjoyable, sometimes amazingly mind-boggling, but I’m equally transported by the costumes, the choreography, and the sheer discipline involved in mastering the dances individually and as part of a group. The whole experience is magic to me.
Adding in the circus arts elevates that to strastopheric new levels. (I don’t know that stratospheric is technically correct there. Just roll with it. I’m excited.)
First off, I need to stress that these are student performers, so for the scenes using the rings and silks pictured above, take that feeling of “ermagawd that’s dangerous” and multiply it by a thousand.
Ahhhhh! That’s somebody’s little girl!
These scenes are elegant. They are creative. They are breathtaking. And they are executed so flawlessly, so nonchalantly, that you forget the performers are teenagers. Until you go to stalk them for selfies after the show and are faced with the fact that they are the same age as your kids and likely to think you are so lame for asking.
It would have been a tremendous addition to the experience if there had been a time for “meet and greet” after the show, but again, I get it, these are high schoolers and they may not be into conversations/pics with little kids and ahem, 40 year old over-enthusiastic theater goers.
The integration of the aerialists, juggling, etc. does make the time fly if you’re concerned with keeping the attention of younger attendees. The show is recommended for ages 4 and up, with a running time of 60 minutes.
With music written by Ottorino Respighi and based on piano pieces by Gioachino Rossini, the collaborative production is set in an enchanted toy shop in France in the mid-1800s and features a fast-paced parade of whimsical characters, delightful dances, and an impressive array of acrobatics demonstrating strength and dexterity.
The two remaining performances take place today, May 7th, at 2 and 7pm. There are light snacks available, there is no intermission. Tickets are $12 – $15 and can be purchased online or by visiting or calling the box office at 610.622.1189.
I really hope that these collaborations with the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts become a regular thing, if they aren’t already!
The Upper Darby Performing Arts Center is located at 601 N. Lansdowne Avenue in Drexel Hill, PA. It’s part of the high school, so 1) yay! Ample free parking and 2) you might be alarmed when your GPS announces you have arrived. I recommend getting there early enough that you can just follow everyone else, but the door is located on the side facing the street, between two parking lots.
This was my first time there and it seems like a really lovely, laid back venue. My friend said she was there for the Junie B. Jones production and it was still a good experience even in the “nosebleed” seats (it’s small, there’s not really any nosebleed going on here).
It’s worth noting that for us, just outside of Newark, it was a hike (about an hour), but totally worth it. Free parking goes a long way when you consider parking costs in Philly, plus the cost of tickets is very reasonable. We took Route 1 almost the whole way up to avoid the nonsense that is happening on 95 right now and it was an easy, traffic free drive.
You can register your child for the Upper Darby Summer Stage program as a performer or to learn hands-on about the technical side of theater.
As I mentioned, the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts has a summer camp that Cass was pretty psyched about, but it’s (understandably) a bit pricey. We may have to check out one of the reasonably priced Intro Workshops instead for $25, and save towards camp next year!
Both the Upper Darby Performing Arts Center and Upper Darby Summer Stage are jointly sponsored by the Upper Darby School District Board of School Directors and Upper Darby Township Mayor and Council through the Department of Recreation and Leisure Services.
Delaware To Do received press passes to this performance, all opinions are our own.