Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Perils of Pinocchio

Something I’m discovering is that there are pluses & minuses to having season tickets to any theater. I love that I’m saving money. But I hate feeling like I’m rushed to see a show because I don’t want to waste a ticket.

Usually, finding time to see a show isn’t an issue for me. Most of the shows that run at Cumberland County Playhouse will run for a couple of months. This gives me time to find to see a show. However, their children’s productions have shorter runs (for good reason). I planned ahead of time to go see Camp Rock when it opened, so that wasn’t really an issue.

However, The Perils of Pinocchio snuck up on me. It opened March 17th and closed April 1st. Before I even realized it, it was Wednesday and I still hadn’t seen Pinocchio yet. So I quickly called and reserved my ticket for closing night.

I’ll be honest, I love children’s performances. I think it’s such a fantastic thing to see children being introduced to the wonderful world of theater, and getting the chance to be on stage at such a young age. The great part about The Perils of Pinocchio is that the oldest person in the whole cast was around 14 years old.

The show itself was written in 1958 and it closely follows the movie version that we all know & love. It was apparently written for a fundraiser for a school in Florida originally, but in 1963, Cumberland County produced it, before the Cumberland County Playhouse existed. This sparked such an interest in the community that is eventually developed into the Cumberland County Playhouse, which opened 19 months later. *

It is truly a children’s show. It has mostly group numbers (designed, I’m sure, to let children have a chance to participate without forcing them to do solos), which I thought was perfect, and only a few main characters.

Geppetto was played by Lenny Lively. And may I just say that he made a VERY convincing old man, especially since he’s only in his early teens. Someone needs to thank their make-up person. Not to take away from Lenny’s acting, which was very good a well.

Mary Kemp played the Cricket at the performance that I saw (the role, and several other roles were shared with other children). She had comedic timing and expressions DOWN. Cricket was good for a laugh all of the time. And Mary did a great job personifying the Cricket. The character wasn’t Jimminy Cricket from the Disney movie, and wasn’t supposed to be. And Mary did a great job giving the character its own personality.

The Blue Fairy was played by Katey Dailey (this role was also a shared role). She was, in one word, HILARIOUS. That is all I can say. If she keeps up the work, she’ll be a long time, fantastically talented actor.

The title character, Pinocchio, was played by Emily McMillen (a shared role). She made for a very stubborn Pinocchio (which is the point, of course). The insolence she gave her character was fun. As a grown-up, it’s easy to forget how crazy you think your parents are. But Pinocchio makes you look at it from a child’s view again. Why would you want to do things like go to school when you could have FUN?? And Pinocchio learns his lesson by trial and error (or perils, as the case may be).

There were so many scene changes in the show (a total of 13 to be exact) that I would have hated to have been on the stage crew. But it worked for the show, as there were many different scenes needed to tell the story.

Does anyone remember the Pleasure Island scene from the movie? That was by far my favorite scene in this play. The scenery was fantastic! It was done in mostly black & day-glo paint and a lot of it was lit with black lights. It made for a great look to the scene and really gave it a fun feeling (isn’t that what Pleasure Island is supposed to be??).

I won’t retell the entire story here (most of us know the tale anyway). But I will say that I was very glad I got to see the show. My only disappointment is that I can’t tell you to go see it with your children, since I was there on closing night. But if there is one thing I have come to learn about the Playhouse, it’s that their children’s productions are every bit as superb as their adult productions. So remember that, and catch on next time around!

*all info in this paragraph taken from the Playbill for the show

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