Thursday, May 4, 2017

Review of Neverbird Project's Pinocchio at Chicago Children's Theatre

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Pinocchio. It was by Levi Holloway and it was directed by Holloway and Katy Boza. The ASL director was Matt Anderson and the musical director and choreographer was Nicole Lambert. It was about a puppet named Pinocchio (Julissa Contreras) who is brought to life by a dead girl named Blu (Haley Bolithon). Pinocchio doesn't have a voice, so he has a ghost cricket, Crickett (Sarah Cartwright), say what he is thinking. He gets to know Geppeto (Chris Chmelik), who created him. Geppeto has promised the evil puppet master Redd (Mary Williamson) many puppets every month, so he has to keep Pinocchio hidden. But Pinnocchio doesn't completely understand all of those rules. It is about love, loss, and making the most of what you have. I thought this was a really beautiful show. It had great actors and a really moving story. I loved it.

This production was very different from the Disney movie. The movie was less dark, and the stakes were less real and human. It was more a matter of life and death in this production. For older viewers it was very sad and it may seem scary to younger kids. I would say it would be a good experience for mature seven year olds and up. The reason why it is sad is because characters you love die, but it also makes it feel real. Geppeto and Hannah (Skyler Schremp), his wife, experience a lot of trauma from oppression during a war that seems like World War II. Pinocchio also kills Crickett by accident because he doesn't really know what killing means, but Crickett comes right back as a ghost. The ghost part isn't realistic, but causing a lot of damage with a thoughtless action is. The movie is also centered around thoughtless actions, but the consequences aren't as real. In the movie, Pinocchio just grows his nose until he hasn't made any mistakes for a while and then he gets what he wants. In the play, Pinocchio gets in trouble not because he should know better but because he is new to the world. The Blue Fairy is just a presence of purity, happiness, and confidence in the movie, but in this play Blu is a character who isn't always completely confident in herself but still wants to do the right thing. And you love her even though she isn't perfect like the Blue Fairy in the movie.

The overall feel of the show was like one of the original fairy tales, mysterious and dark. I thought it was cool how they used dim lighting (by Claire Chrzan) from jars suspended in the sky, which kind of represented the dead star girls. All the music (sound design and music by Jeffrey Levin) was kind of old-timey and choppy, but kind of modernized. Lots of the music had a metronome sound. It was more precise than smooth. The music sounded like time passing because this play is centered around death. I really loved the dance the puppets (Jasiana Caraballo, Makeda Duncan, Leah Healy, Paige Healy, Delilah Lane, Sofia Richter, Schremp, Isabelle Teruel, and Tali Vittum) did for Redd. I like remixes of older songs, and this song was super catchy and the dance was super creepy and cool at the same time. Redd is basically directing it all with his magical puppet powers. The puppets seem to fake enjoy it, but not really, which is just right for the circumstances. Redd is like death, even though Blu is the dead girl, because he takes everything and Blu wants to give and make the most out of everything. I think Redd was a really effective villain because of the way he controlled things.

I really loved the scene in the whale. I thought it was really sweet to see Geppeto, Pinocchio, Crickett, and Blu spending time together even though they are literally in a whale. They are trying to make the best out of the situation because these may be their last hours together. I think it is really bittersweet because you see how happy they are right now, but you know that it is going to come to an end. They use a montage of all of the things they do together inside of the whale's stomach: like fishing, goofing around, and just hanging out together. They seemed to be having a genuinely good time, even though I was thinking a whale's stomach is probably not the most comfortable place in the world. I think the montage was really heartfelt and meaningful because they did really love each other even though they hadn't known each other very long. One of them is a puppet, one is a cricket ghost, one is a dead girl, and one is a human, but they seem to have a special bond. And it makes the end of the show even more moving. It hurt to try to keep from crying.

People who would like this show are people who like dark and moving fairy tales, cricket ghosts, and whale belly montages. I think that kids and adults should definitely go see this show. I think this is a really great show. It was moving, beautiful and altogether really awesome. I loved it!

Photos: Milo Blue, Patrick Pelz

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