If I am lying, then my nose would be growing – but it's not. So you know I'm telling the truth when I say audiences of all ages will love Marc Robin's adaptation of Carlo Collodi's classic fairy tale about the puppet who wanted to become a real boy.
This story first began delighting children back in 1883, and it has remained a favorite, popularized in 1940 by Walt Disney's animated film version. Steven Spielberg adapted the story into his futuristic movie "A.I," changing the puppet boy to a robot child. Robin's version stays true to the original novel in a highly entertaining, humorous (for both children and adults), sometimes touching musical that offers many valuable lessons for young audiences.
Rachel Rockwell has economically directed and choreographed her terrific eight-member cast (some actors playing several roles) that stars Jameson Cooper in the title role. Cooper, a welcome newcomer to the Chicago area, brings endearing, boyish charm and professional song-and-dance skills that propel him into the spotlight as the real puppet who transforms into a real boy. Bernie Yvon portrays the kindly toy maker, Geppetto, with all the genuine love, parental care and concern you could imagine. As the Blue Fairy, lovely Cory Goodrich seems to almost float through the air in her billowing blue gown and glowing magic wand. Both actors give solid, honest performances, whether helping guide little Pinocchio toward his potential or singing Robin's beautiful score.
The villainous puppeteer Stromboli is played with evil perfection and humor by Scott Calcagno, while Ericka Mac and Richard Strimer are his high-strutting song-and-dance accomplices in crime, Kitty and Foxy. As the street thug, Lampwick, Adrian Aguilar gets to show off his talent as a hip hop dancer and rapper while luring poor Pinocchio to Pleasure Island. And last, but certainly not least, Jackson Evans is Hopper, the Jiminy Cricket character, who in Robin's version is the tallest grasshopper you will ever see. When the Blue Fairy assigns him the arduous task of being Pinocchio's conscience, the actor draws upon his considerable comic talent to provide most of the show's laughs (especially for the adults).
Kids deserve entertainment that respects their age yet doesn't talk down to them. Once again this theatre rises to the occasion with an honest, straightforward hour of entertainment featuring a message suitable for children and adults alike. This is a terrific production, full of humor, music and professional talent. Be sure to stay for the intelligent, informative talk-backs following each performance which allow children to ask questions of the actors. Pinocchio is one whale of an addition to Chicagoland's summer lineup of theatre for youth.