Involuntary Moral Reformation in Babes in Toyland

My family saw the American Family Theater‘s production of Babes in Toyland this morning.

Barnaby the Bumbling Villain, sneering from under a painted-on handlebar mustache as he gloats over his possession of the widow’s mortgage, pursues the heroes to Toyland. There, after much stock-character humor (cunning disguises, stunning surprises… lovers divided get coincided) the climax comes as the heroes pin Barnaby down, tickle him, and force him to eat a gumdrop from the “goody gumdrop tree.” 

This sets up a musical transformation that begins with Barnaby tossing his black hat offstage, then catching the white hat thrown by a stagehand. After a few dance routines with the newly reformed Barnaby, we see his pantomimed proposal to the widow he had initially been trying to throw
out onto the street.

I thoroughly enjoyed the melodrama, and my six-year-old was hopping up and down in her seat to the songs.

As we were filing out, I asked my ten-year-old why he looked so thoughtful.

“They shouldn’t have forced Barnaby to eat the gumdrop,” he said. “Even if he’s a villian, they interfered with his free will.

I didn’t know what to say. Other than telling him this was another one for the blog.