'The Adventures of Pinocchio'

Young People's Theatre

YPT Site

Joe Szekeres

What a tremendously enjoyable opening night production of ‘The Adventures of Pinocchio’ at Young People’s Theatre!

What a joy to see a show specifically geared to children and their families. And what a gift to give yourselves and your families this Christmas/holiday season. If you would like to introduce young school aged children to the wonderful world of live theatre, order your tickets now because I have a strong feeling ‘Pinocchio’ will sell out especially over Christmas and New Year’s.

The press release speaks about a dream team behind the scenes with a cast of first-rate actors, and I agree wholeheartedly. This dream team all around makes this production come alive.

As director, award winning actor Sheila McCarthy is at the helm accompanied by Canadians Brian Hill who wrote the book with cleverly written lyrics and music by Neil Bartram. The names I did recognize on stage and behind the scenes are some top-notch individuals. I know I will scan future programmes for the names I did not recognize and keep an eye out for them as these talented people are most deserving of the standing ovation at this opening night.

I’m sure we all know the story of Pinocchio (Connor Lucas), the little wooden, energetic boy who wants to become a real boy. His father Geppetto (Shawn Wright) loves him not matter what happens. As the story unfolds, Pinocchio does whatever it takes to get what he wants. At times, Pinocchio is impulsive and rash while at other times he is obstinate and harsh. Pinocchio goes on a series of adventures and meets many strange and eccentric individuals who ultimately lead him to understand the difference between what he wants and what he truly cares about.

In order to do this, Pinocchio must be honest with himself and others. This year, YPT focuses on the Seven Ancestral Teachings of the Anishinaabek people. Honesty is the focus in this production.

And director Sheila McCarthy clearly and consistently maintains this focus throughout the seventy-five minutes presentation. Pacing is tight and fluid. David Terriault’s music direction helps to keep the production moving along. Joanna Yu’s gorgeous costumes and functional set design magically capture the storybook appeal. The puppetry of the large fish and watching how it swam across the stage mesmerized me.

Connor Lucas is an energetically high Pinocchio who longingly wants to experience as much real adventure that he can in his quest to become a real boy. His tap-dancing sequence in ‘It’s Easy Being Me’ is one of the highlights of the show. There is a world-weary poignancy in Shawn Wright’s performance as Geppetto. My heart was breaking for this father who believes he has lost his son forever but keeps looking for him no matter the cost.

The eccentric supporting players add intense drama and suspense to the fast-moving plot events. As the Blue Fairy who appears and disappears as she tells us the story and converses with Pinocchio, Malindi Ayienga ethereally reminded me how life can sometimes be mysterious. Jacob MacInnis is a deliciously campy and evil Puppet Master who pushes Pinocchio to his limits. Joel Cumber and Arinea Hermans as the shyster Fox and Cat theatrically and magnetically share an eleven o’clock number about money growing on trees. Great fun to watch Mr. Cumber and Ms. Hermans nimbly move across the stage with such grace and ease.

Noah Beemer’s Lampwick teaches Pinocchio a very hard lesson about people who supposedly only like you to gain certain things. Susan Henley, Sierra Holder and Kelsey Verzotti beautifully round out this cast with memorable moments in song and dance.

FINAL COMMENTS: An enchantingly delightful afternoon or evening of entertainment for the family. Don’t miss out.

THE ADVENTURES OF PINOCCHIO
Production continues to January 5, 2020 on the Mainstage at Young People’s Theatre, 165 Front Street East, Toronto. For tickets, call (416) 862-2222 or visit www.youngpeoplestheatre.org for further information.

Production recommended from ages JK/SK – GRADE 6

Performance runs approximately 75 minutes with no intermission. There will be some Q and A sessions after performances so make sure you check first.

Director: Sheila McCarthy; Music & Lyrics by Neil Bartram; Book by Brian Hill; Music Director: David Terriault; Choreographer: Julie Tomaino; Lighting Designer: Louise Guinand; Sound Designer: Adam Harendorf; Set & Costume Designer: Joanna Yu; Stage Manager: Kristin McCollum.
Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann. L-R: Connor Lucas, Arinea Hermans and Joel Cumber.

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