It is very unusual to find a children’s show that could be referred to as unique, but Pinocchio certainly qualifies. The production is a participation musical written and created specifically for families with primary school aged children. It stars four professional actors together with about ten children picked randomly from volunteers in the audience.
The actors start by introducing themselves and then lead a short “warm-up” for the whole audience. Then, after the children have been chosen, the remainder of the first half is an open rehearsal for the rest of the audience. Four songs, that will provide the backbone of the show, are rehearsed, together with the associated actions. Meanwhile the children backstage are practicing lines for their part in the main event.
The set is a clever design with the basic walls augmented by two triangular, rotating columns on which are painted three different backdrops. This enables that actors to create a new location simply by rotating the columns and ensures that the changes are quick and slick.
After the interval the chosen children sit either side of the stage, awaiting their cues to join in, and the four actors begin to tell the familiar tale of the puppet who yearns to be a real boy. At the appropriate time each child makes their way up the stairs and on to the stage to deliver their lines, to many “oohs” and “ahhs” from their adoring families.
Incredibly catchy and well-rehearsed songs are incorporated into the one-hour performance with audience participation almost compulsory. The actors work very hard to ensure that they engage with the adults as well as the children and they achieve this with relative ease.
Although quite unlike anything that we have seen before, my (almost) five-year old daughter enjoyed the performance immensely and, although not one of the chosen participants, was engaged with the show throughout.
It is very difficult to compare such a unique performance to other children’s shows in order to rate its success but, judging by the audience reaction and participation levels, I would say that it is a great success and certainly a great way to spend a wet Saturday afternoon.