As you enter the Charlotte Martin Theatre to see Pinocchio, you may have the urge to double-check your tickets. The stage is under construction with scaffolding, ropes, ladders and paint boxes lying all over.
But venture in and take your seat. Stay put even as one of the five painters regretfully informs you that the play is on another day and they are just painting the stage. And as you wait patiently, the painters will bring the classic Italian folktale to life – replete with Pinocchio’s adventures and misadventures.
An adaptation of the tale by Greg Banks, Pinocchio is produced and performed by the Children's Theatre Company of Minnesota. The play starts off after the painters decide to present the story to an expecting audience. With a lack of props or costumes, the painters make do with their tools and create a "make-believe" story, coming very close to the original. Most of the familar elements – the cat, the fox and Lampwick make an appearance with a very contemporary context.
“Who doesn’t like a week of six Saturdays and one Sunday, and no homework?” Lampwick, the boy who invites Pionocchio to playland, asks the audience. Of course, the resounding response from the crowd, is “Yay!”
There are many interactive scenes where the actors seek help from the audience, from when four of the painters try to convince their unwilling fifth friend to play Geppetto (“Don’t you think he can play the father?”) to goading Pinocchio to swim faster to escape the whale (“Let’s say 'Swim faster, Pinocchio, swim faster!’”).
Many teaching points are cleverly intertwined in the play. When Pinocchio decides to go watch the puppet show instead of going to school as he had promised his papa, one of the actors points out “Pinocchio is not keeping his promise to his papa.” When Lampwick and Pinocchio turn into donkeys, we learn that "all play and no school makes a boy a donkey." And when Geppetto is too weak to get up, Pinocchio works hard to get milk for his papa, realizing that no magic can beat hard work.
“Start the play, painter, don’t be silly!”
“It was super, super funny!”
“So if I am caught in a whale’s mouth, all I need to do is tickle it from inside?”
Parents should know
- Although the recommended age range for the play is ages 6 and older, you could go a bit younger my almost-5-year-old loved it. However, it turned out there were a few points in the play where she needed clarification, such as the transition of actors from being painters to characters. If bringing younger children you may want to prepare them for the "role-play" and "pretend-play" performance a bit in advance.
- Check out the active audience guide for the show, with great information, background for the show and teaching tips.
- Bathroom and concession lines do tend to get long during the 15-minute intermission. If possible, use restrooms before the show.
- There is an option of preordering your snacks for the intermission.
- The actors come back on stage after the show for a very interactive Q&A with the audience and to give autographs to their young fans. Encourage your kids to ask away any burning questions they have.