‘Pinocchio’ offers fun – no strings attached
"Pinocchio," presented Oct. 11, 12 and 13 by Washington Community Theater, is a delightful trip back to childhood through the traditional tale of a puppet who (spoiler alert!) becomes a real boy. Though everybody knows the story, the production’s “how” provides smiles, chuckles and maybe even a tear.
The cast’s frenetic energy keeps the story moving at a hilarious pace and each actor plainly has fun with his or her character’s defining trait.
Terry Shaw, the Fire Eater puppet master, and Danielle Pettit-Majewski, the Blue Fairy, introduce us to Pinocchio’s world of puppets and fairy magic. Both Shaw and Pettit-Majewski use considerable vocal skill and range to aid their outstanding costumes and makeup in creating these two defining characters. (Compliments to Shaw for handling his own makeup!)
Geppetto (Don Hughes), as Pinocchio’s father, charms the audience with his simple, happy acceptance of his new puppet-son. His language and life-skills lessons for Pinocchio are delightful throughout the show. Antonio, the beleaguered wood-chopper (Chris Hanson) and his son, Candlewick (Logan Hanson), provide sharp contrast to Geppetto and Pinocchio in the father-son relationship department. But Candlewick has so much fun – and is so good at – being naughty that it’s easy to understand why Pinocchio wants to follow him. (Watch for his hat skills.)
The show’s other bad guys are so bad they are animals: Fox (Graeham Beezley) and Cat (Gracey Murphy). Both are in maliciously top form as they growl, purr, spell badly and gleefully plot mischief.
In every way, however, the star of the show is Andrew Jeffrey as Pinocchio. In a world of one-dimensional characters he demonstrates transformation, from a wooden puppet to a real boy capable of learning love and courage as well as spelling and arithmetic. Jeffrey’s opening scene, where Pinocchio learns to stand, walk and talk, allows him some wonderful physical comedy. As the play unfolds, Jeffrey progresses from ignorance and naiveté to gratitude and joy. It’s a satisfying journey for Pinocchio and for his audience.
Also deserving of special mention are Pinocchio’s fellow puppets, Punchinella (Sophie Murphy); Miss Rose (Aurora Kane); Gioppino (Aiden Miller) and Harlequin (Lincoln Hanson). Their able puppeteers are Melanie Hawkins, Gracie Cleverley and Grace Miller.
Chris Kane, a lone Keystone Kop, has mastered mime as well as comic use of a police whistle, for his role. Dennis Hawkins, also with the aid of terrific costume and makeup (by director Margo Mitts), is an appropriately creepy clown.
Emily Jeffrey, Tatum Kane and Zoe Kane provide an attractive assist with props and addition to the ensemble scenes. Lisa Hughes led the costume crew of Jill Newhouse, Virginia Bordwell and Lynette Kennedy. Ian Stakland is stage manager and Mike McNurlen designed and built the set.
Kudos to director Margo Mitts for choosing a play with such a high fun quotient and for her skills in drawing such energy and joy from her cast.
“ ‘Pinocchio’ is one of my favorite stories,” Mitts said. “I like that the play involves both children and adults.”
Longtime theater technician Jon Gloyer, who oversees lights and sound for the show, concurred. “This is an excellent show for involving kids,” he said. “When kids come to the theater, it opens a whole new world to them that they can enjoy for the rest of their lives.”