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REVIEW: Geek Authority on Pinocchio

The South Coast Repertory Theatre has a wonderful theatrical children’s program that brings classic tales to life with an amazing ensemble of performers. “Pinocchio” is their latest addition. This fun, funny and colorful version was written for the stage by Greg Banks. And, of course, is based on the original Carlo Collodi’s original masterpiece which was originally written back in 1883 in the children’s novel ‘The Adventures of Pinocchio’. This whimsical, audience interactive play with characters that literally come to life as they ask the audience (the kids) to help them out.

You know the classic tale of course, but, what makes it fun for the adults is it’s all bookended by these ‘stage hands’ trying to set up a set for a play that is moving in. You see nothing but tall scaffolding – like painters use – and their all over the stage. All the while you the audience are thinking you are going to see “Pinocchio”. Well it’s a hysterical ‘foolie’ as they say – ‘well, since we have an audience, we can tell them the story. And with minimal set, costumes and lots of music, color and great performers you’re on your way to learn about the wooden boy who wanted to be real.

Directed by Jeremy Aluma, who used a wonderful ensemble of performers and the use of poignant stage lighting, shadow puppetry and wonderful use of this creative scaffolding to keep the kids and adults on their toes with music, gags, acrobatics, puppetry and more!

Joe Desoto is Pinocchio. He truly captured the wonder and excitement of a wooden puppet who wanted to be real. He had the physicality and I especially loved his looks of innocence, confusion and eventual concern for his papa! Joe has some wonderful improvisational moments with the kids too and they just ate him up!

Kevin Klein – Geppetto and one of the most hysterical Fairies you’ll see on a harness. As pretty much the stage hand who leads this stage crew in the beginning, he takes on many characters and does a wonderful job as the caring and loving papa Geppetto. But his version of the ‘blue fairy’ will have you laughing out loud!

Jennifer Carroll is Cricket and of course always sprinkling words of wisdom, but when she became the sly Fox she was having a ball. Interacting with the kids and keeping her ‘slyness’ sharp you can’t help but laugh at this characters mishaps.

David Honigman is the Policeman and musician and a very nervously funny burglarizing cat. David is very physical with his role and with all the characters he plays it’s his expressions that sell the show. He’s fun and always attentive to the other characters and especially the kids in the audience.

Tyler Bremer is the Bookseller and Lampwick and many more. He’s so much fun to watch as his light-hearted quirkiness makes for some very funny moments. His donkey impression is especially fun and has some nice charming moments with Pinocchio as well.

Fred Kinney did an amazing and creative thing with his set design – he used scaffolding! Yes it was utilized with slides, strip lighting and a unique shadow box that made for some funny shadowbox puppetry.

Leah Piehl did the very creative costume designing and used a great visual style to create nicely surrealistic costumes for the cast. Along with the incredible use of spot, strobe and mood lighting which was designed by Francois-Pierre Couture it made for a wonderfully sharp smart and kid and adult friendly experience. Complete with strip lighting.

South Coast Repertory’s production of “Pinocchio” is simple family fun for everyone. The kids are going to love it and participate in it, while the company put some very clever quips and puns that will definitely make the adults laugh too. Children’s theatre is so much fun when a company likes this gets so wonderfully creative and imaginative like they did here.

- Lorenzo Marchessi

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