BWW Review: Becoming a Real Live Boy: MSMT Closes Young Audiences Series with PINOCCHIO

BWW Review: Becoming a Real Live Boy: MSMT Closes Young Audiences Series with PINOCCHIO

In an enchantingly fresh take on Carlo Collodi's classic tale, Robin and Clark's musical version of Pinocchioexplores the inner journey of the wooden puppet who must learn the meaning of truth, compassion, and courage in order to become "a real live boy." MSMT closes its Theatre for Young Audiences series with a colorful, amusing, and tender retelling of this touching story, directed and choreographed by Raymond Marc Dumont and entirely produced and performed by MSMT's Educational Fellows.

Marc Robin and Curt Dale Clark have long been masters of creating their own contemporary spins on the folk tale source material, and their rendition of Pinocchiois no exception. Written in 1998, the show retains a remarkable relevance and originality, as it speaks simply and fervently to the lessons Pinocchio must learn in this coming of age tale: telling the truth, overcoming laziness and self-indulgence, resisting peer pressure, following his own conscience, and learning care and compassion for others, most especially his kindly father Gheppeto. The musical retains the familiar characters and the outline of the story with a slightly different twist at the end wthat serves to humanize Pinocchio further and drive home the most important message of the musical version- the meaning of love. The songs are catchy; the lyrics captivating, and the book tightly paced at fifty minutes.

Raymond Marc Dumont shapes the entire staging with a sure hand, maintaining a brisk smooth flow, adding several clever surprise stage tricks, and spicing the action up with some lively choreography especially for the Kitty-Fox duo and for Lampwick and his gang. Music Director Curtis Reynolds on keyboards leads the orchestra in playing the score with buoyant commitment.

Creating the physical production within the confines of the Singin' in the Rainset, Set Designers Jeremy Shontz and Nadir Bey manage to conjure up the magic of the puppet's world, while Props Designer Krysele Martinez creates some large colorful solutions to the changing locales, including trees which quickly reverse from real to a psychedelic colored forest for Pleasure Island, a wooden trunk which facilitates Pinocchio's transformation from tiny puppet to full-sized boy, and a clever backdrop for the belly of the whale. Lighting Designer Amber Hicks completes the illusion with a shifting palette of coloring book hues and several eye-catching tricks to convey the magical sequences. Sound Designer Nicholas Kunkel balances everything nicely and creates some atmospheric special effects. The vibrant, fanciful, elaborate costume,s coordinated by Cee-Cee Swalling, are enhanced by Jacob Miller's wig and makeup designs. Stage Manager Mickey Acton skillfully keeps the staging on course.

BWW Review: Becoming a Real Live Boy: MSMT Closes Young Audiences Series with PINOCCHIOThe twelve-member cast performs with commitment and style. Jake Hartman invests Pinocchio's psychological journey from callous child to compassionate boy with poignancy, and he uses his clear, strong tenor to considerable effect in numbers like "I'm Ready" and the reprise of "Real Live Boy." Caleb James Grochalski makes a sympathetic Gheppeto, quietly lonely and sweetly loving in his paternal care for his puppet boy, and he, too, makes a strong impression in "A Child of My Own" and "Real Live Boy." Lauren McDonald plays the wisecracking Cricket with an understated sarcasm that masks an affectionate nature, and she and Hartman execute the amusing choreography for "The Walking Song" with delightful agility. Stevie Ann Mack makes a radiant Blue Fairy and lights up the stage in a rueful rendition of "Poor Little Boy" and in her dance sequence which effects the final transformation on the beach.

As the wicked Kitty and Fox, Melaina Corey Rairamo and Alec Duffy Talbott offer a lively vaudeville-style song and dance duo with excellent partnering in the lifts, while Ben Walker-Dubay makes an imperious Stromboli, the evil puppeteer. Michael Olaribigbe proves to be a charismatic, feline Lampwick, executing the tumbling feats he has become known for at MSMT this summer, and leading his gang of irresponsible boys, played with rag tag streetwise glee by Miles Obrey, Andrew Carney, Elisabeth Christie, and Declan Kelley, in the "Pleasure Island" and "This Is the Life" sequences with bravado.

BWW Review: Becoming a Real Live Boy: MSMT Closes Young Audiences Series with PINOCCHIOAs did Cinderella earlier in the season, this production of Robin and Clark's Pinocchio demonstrates how far MSMT has come in building their Theatre for Young Audiences Series - in terms of the ever-more complex performance and production values, the increased number of performances, and the ever-growing appeal these have for the audiences. Virtually sold out this season, MSMT will offer the 2019 TYA series as a subscription series and has added a third show to the repertoire. Kudos to Curt Dale Clark for sharing his long experience in creating quality family theatre and to him and Managing Director Stephanie Dupal for their passionate commitment to bringing the magic of musicals to young audiences who are the future of live theatre.

Photos courtesy MSMT, Mary Catherine Frantz, photographer

Pinocchio plays four performances at MSMT's Pickard Theater, 1 Bath Rd., Brunswick, ME on August 20 at 10:00 am, 1:00pm, 4:00 pm, and 7:30pm. www.msmt.org207-725-8769

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From This Author Carla Maria Verdino-S├╝llwold

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