In this puppet show, the three bears drive their trailer from Yellowstone to Hollywood for a family vacation. And that’s just the beginning of Thistle Theatre’s quirky interpretation of the well-known fairy tale Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
The 45-minute show employs the traditional Japanese style of puppetry known as bunraku, where puppeteers dress all in black but are visible on stage manipulating the puppets. While this may be distracting to adults unfamiliar with the technique, the kids at the show we attended last weekend at the Sunset Hill Community Club didn’t seem to mind. The show’s director, Jean Enticknap, took a moment before the show to introduce the puppeteers. She then encouraged the mostly preschool-aged audience to pretend the puppeteers were invisible.
Skilled puppetry is the heart of this show and the most enjoyable aspect. Puppeteers are Brian Stabile, Gina Wilhelm and Lisa A. Haslbauer.
A few lively tunes performed by the various puppet characters also lend an entertaining ingredient, with some clever lyrics such as those sung by the three bears when they’re ready to start their road trip: “It’s time to break out of the old routine/It’s time to fill the car with gasoline.” Sue Ennis wrote the music and lyrics.
The story line proves to be a bit of a challenge with rambling and peculiar additions to the basic tale of Goldilocks happening upon the three bears’ home and messing with their stuff. After the three bears have driven their trailer to Hollywood, by way of Colorado, Las Vegas and Seattle, they find the perfect camping spot in a suburban Hollywood trailer park. The bears sing, dance, play games and take a photo (a “Kodiak moment”), as well as wrangle over Baby Bear’s nap before getting to the too-hot porridge.
After the bears have left for a walk, Goldilocks wanders into their campsite along with her pet duck. The ensuing scenes have her playing several make-believe games including marrying her pet duck to the campsite’s pink plastic flamingo, imagining she has her own television show, and singing “When you fall on your butt, you just pick yourself right up” while pretending she’s Taylor Swift’s younger sister.
Amid this activity, Goldilocks does try out the porridge, the chairs and eventually the three beds inside the trailer, leading to the expected fairy tale conclusion.
Kids in the audience sat on a large foam mat in front of the stage. Some had trouble concentrating through the entire show, especially during the longer middle scenes. Many other children seemed to enjoy it and paid attention for the full 45 minutes. After the show, performers brought their puppets out so that the audience members could meet them and ask questions as they wished.
This show is recommended for preschool-aged and younger elementary school-aged children who’d enjoy an introduction to this style of puppet theater.
If you go …
Where and when:
May 19-20, Saturday-Sunday at Bellevue Youth Theater, with shows at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. each day.
May 26-27, Saturday-Sunday, at Magnuson Park Theatre, shows at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. each day.
School shows are planned at both locations during weekdays; contact Thistle Theatre for school show dates, times and availability.
Tickets: thistletheatre.org, or 206-524-3388