|Photo by Dan Norman|
|Pinocchio meets a pair of bullies at school, with Elise Langer, Bradley Greenwald, and Dean Holt.|
With a story as familiar as Pinocchio
, how do you make it fresh? In the case of director Greg Banks and the Children's Theatre Company, all it takes is some painting equipment, a few improvised props, and a quartet of actors ready to share their skills.
The audience is invited into the fun from the first moments, when Dean Holt, acting as a painter, is shocked to see a house full of ready patrons. He confirms that their tickets say that a performance of Pinocchio is in order and, after enlisting the help of his fellows, is ready to go.
In a fast-paced, innovative retelling, Elise Langer plays the puppet who came to life, and wants nothing more than to be a real boy. Of course, he has plenty of lessons to learn along the way.
Those lessons, from being captured in a puppet show to being hoodwinked by a Fox and Cat to the frightening Playland sequence, are told with a minimum of moralizing and plenty of skill by the rest of the cast: Holt, Bradley Greenwald, Maggie Chestovich, and musician Victor Zupanc.
Just a look at the cast list is a good sign of where this Pinocchio could go. The chemistry and sense of play they bring to the proceedings keep the action light and quick, even in the play's darkest moments. This is a story that includes pain, suffering, and death before finally landing in the belly of a whale.
Even after that moment, Pinocchio has lessons to learn about work and responsibility before becoming a full-fledged boy. Langer brings all of the innocence, and annoyance, of a young child working out what is right and wrong. The rest of the cast contribute their own skills, from Holt's physical prowess to Greenwald and Chestovich's depth of talent (especially as the evil Fox and Cat) to Zupanc's often clever musical choices.
Banks, who has an impressive string of collaborations with CTC running back a number of years, is known for energetic interpretations that often bring the audience into the mix. Here, it didn't take much to get the youthful crowd engaged, who were quick with shouts of encouragement and suggestions for the main character. This likely helped them get through the tougher parts of the play, and were rewarded with a tremendous ending.
IF YOU GO:
Children's Theatre Company
2400 Third Ave. S., Minneapolis
Through February 24
For tickets and information, call 612.874.0400 or visit online.
2400 3rd Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN