I had the opportunity to visit Seattle Children’s Theatre and watch the newest adaptation of Pinocchio — and a new adaptation it was. The theater is known for it's well-acted plays for children and families. Having had the chance to enjoy several alongside my own family, I was excited to see what they would pull off this time.
As the story goes, Gepetto, a poor woodworker, makes a puppet from said wood and calls it Pinocchio. All Gepetto wants is for his puppet to be alive, to be the son he never had, you know the story. And in a short time that’s just what happens — poof, a live puppet! But what I apparently missed was that there was no magic, no fairy, nothing.
I have to be honest, my expectations were that I would see an old Italian village — colorful and exciting — fairies, the cat, the fox, the works. But what Seattle Children’s Theatre offered was a monochromatic set covered in drop cloths splattered with paint, which matched the painters costumes worn by all the actors. There were no backdrops, and a cast of five each played multiple roles in the same costumes. For an older person to keep the cast of characters straight was hard enough, so I'm sure the kids in the audience were a little confused too, especially since several of the characters — including mainstay Jiminy Cricket — were never formally introduced. To say the least, I was disappointed.
Letting go of the setting, lack of actors, and costuming, the performance itself was interactive with the audience, giving young kids an opportunity to shout out, sing along, and help with magic spells. It was fun to chime in and listen to little kids laugh. The dialog was filled with funny commentary, more than enough to keep me entertained.
If you’re like me, you either read the story of Pinocchio, had it read to you, or like most of us, just saw the Disney movie. So you might have an idea of the order of events. This particular adaptation of the familiar story of a puppet who wanted to be a real boy had only a few events that stayed true to the original.
Pinocchio never dies, though Gepetto actually does and has to be brought back to life. There was no saving Pinocchio from the horrible traveling puppet show. There was no gambling or drinking on Pleasure Island (I won't fault them for that), and Pinocchio’s nose only grew once during the entire performance. There was a proverbial whale, the cat and fox, and a makeshift fairy who chimed in on one or two occasions.
Once Pinocchio and his Papa were saved from the whale, Pinocchio got his wish to become a real boy and the actors, who were commissioned from an out-of-state theater, came back onstage to let the audience ask all kinds of random questions. Kids say some of the funniest things.
Luckily for Seattle Children’s Theatre, I am a loyal fan. If this was the first show I had seen grace their stage I would say it wasn't worth the money people paid. But since I know they are capable of so much better, I'll give 'em a pass on my end.
Seattle Children's Theatre
February 6 - March 9