Orange County Theatre Reviews

Written by Alina Mae Wilson 

If you’re looking for a bright and friendly way to introduce your child to theatre, look no further than South Coast Repertory’s Pinocchio. This musical storytelling of the naive puppet who longs to be a real boy is non-threatening, incredibly interactive, and intended for children ages four and up.

When the curtain rises we see an unadorned –save for some plain scaffolds –colorless set.  A stagehand comes out and starts cleaning, apparently unaware of the audience’s presence.  Once he notices us, he insists he’s just cleaning up, there is no show to be seen, and offhandedly asks what play are we here for anyway?  The audience responds in a chorus of “PINOCCHIO!!!” and the shock of it all just about knocks our goofy stagehand over.  When his fellow crew members appear, they discuss the problem briefly and decide the best thing to do is to tell us the story  themselves.  After donning colorful costumes out of a trunk, that’s exactly what they do, periodically asking the audience for advice and pointed questions designed to keep everyone on the same page.

It is a perfectly harmless, cheery way to introduce your youngster to theatre. The lights dim to draw focus to the stage but doesn’t cut completely to black to prevent total darkness from alarming anyone.  There are some problems for Pinocchio to overcome, but they are mostly instances of sadness rather than fear, and they are counter-balanced with plenty of jokes.  For the purpose of this review I borrowed a seven-year old from a friend, and she responded to the show quite well. When Pinocchio was tied dejectedly to a tree my young guest murmured “Poor Pinocchio,” and then seconds later was she laughing madly at the Blue Fairy’s antics in rescuing him.   When the crew members danced and ran crazily around the stage, she laughed and cheered, and whenever questions were asked, she shouted the answers out with the rest of the kids.  The actors are friendly and engaging, going out of their way to make kids comfortable during and after the show (don’t forget to get your youngster’s picture taken with the whole cast afterwards!), and they manage to get a lot of laughter out of the kids.  

Of course this isn’t terribly exciting for adults, but that isn’t the point.  This isn’t Annie, Beauty and the Beast, or The Lion King. This is just a fun and interactive experience for kids who want to interact with actors onstage.  Once you have that idea down, just go in, snap some photos of the kids, and get ready for some peals of laughter.

February 5, 2016 – February 21, 2016


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