“Pinocchio” is a great opportunity to introduce children to live theatre. The young actors of San Luis Obispo Little Theatre’s Academy of Creative Theatre bring the adventures of the classic puppet to life in the intimate space where the youngsters in the audience have a close-up view of those on the stage.
With colorful ethnic-style costumes and some innovative effects, an ensemble of 24 tells the tale of the wooden puppet who longs to become a real boy but succumbs to tricks and temptations along the way.
Director Shelagh Garren and ACT coordinator Kerry DiMaggio choose plays with themes that the performers can discuss during rehearsals and that can provide a learning experience as they hone their theatrical skills, Garren said.
This one looks at how we tell right from wrong, reacting to peer pressure, what it means to love and to be human, and the importance of education — and of course, telling the truth, as Pinocchio sees his nose grow longer when he doesn’t.
Trevyn Wong is a delightful Pinocchio, starting out innocent and vulnerable but becoming mischievous and rebellious, until in the end, he makes a life-threatening effort to save his “papa,” Geppetto, the woodcarver who created him. Geppetto, who searches for Pinocchio as the puppet gets into trouble, is played by Conner Allen.
Pinocchio’s troubles begin as he is conned by Sandor S. Swindle (Cali Singleton) the fox, and Sydney the cat (Taylor Peters), who take him to a puppet theater in hopes of cashing in on him. Penny DellaPelle is comical as the sneezing puppet master. The puppets in the theater are depicted by the large ensemble of boys and girls in elegant Commedia Dell’Arte costumes and masks, in a lovely dance number. The central characters are Harlequin (Mia Ritter) and Columbine (Anouk von Ott). Director Garren used this sequence to teach the performers about the historic theatrical style
Pinocchio gives in to peer pressure when he meets Candlewick, played by Ernesto Roide as a rebellious boy who talks the puppet into skipping school to hide out in the Land of Dingalings, where they play and eat candy all day, oblivious to the fact that they will be turned into donkeys. Elizabeth Tharp is the cruel Coachwoman.
The angelic creatures who save Pinocchio from his nearly fatal adventures are The Blue Fairy (Lauren Rudd) and Cricket, who turn up just in time. Cricket (Jiminy Cricket in the 1940 movie), is played as Pinocchio’s frustrated conscience by 10-year-old Alexis Rosinsky.
The ensemble of performers who play villagers, puppets, teens and children include Eligh Brevetz, Campbell Ellery, Isabella Grznar, Ella Harris, Laila Haughey, Lunabella Levin, Audrey Mason, Stella McSween, Zoe Peach-Riley, Serafina Regusci, Sienna Ritter, Claire Romero and Drew Vander Weele.
I’m sure some members of the audience wondered, as I did, how the puppet would save Geppetto from the belly of the whale onstage, and it is achieved with drama and style. A huge parachute is manipulated by members of the cast to depict the rolling sea, tossing Pinocchio and Geppetto about, and a backlit semblance of the whale’s rib cage is cast on the wall for an exciting climax to the adventure.
This is a show for all ages, with adults enjoying the fine acting by the young cast and kids becoming involved in the timeless story of the classic puppet.
IF YOU GO
7 p.m. Fridays and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, through Jan. 26.
San Luis Obispo Little Theatre, 888 Morro St., San Luis Obispo
$13 to $17
786-2440 or www.slolittletheatre.org