It always surprises me how many people don't know about the Marriott Theatre way up north in the frozen tundra known as Lincolnshire. Because it truly is a gem of local entertainment.
What's great about shows at the Marriott is that they don't settle for whatever category people might want to lump them into, such as "resort entertainment" or "community theater." Every production has amazing quality and attention to detail. Even with the Children's Theater the quality isn't brought down because they're performing in front of a bunch of kids.
Pinocchio is this season's children's theater piece, and it would definitely hold it's own with the 'big boys' out in Chicago's big theater scene, as well as New York. It takes a little bit of magic to make little kids stay engaged and sit still for an hour, and this production and cast did amazingly well. Guest critic, 3 year old Emma Sale was very impressed, and she screamed through 40 minutes of Shrek. So that should tell you something.
This production was more traditional and less Disney, which can be hard to pull off sometimes, especially if you're telling a story the Mouse has already covered. But this rendition of the classic fairy tale had great acting, especially good choreography, and characters that would hold their own with any popular sidekick. The grasshopper "Hopper" was expertly written and performed. Jiminy Who? Hopper was way better.
Great modern day twists, especially the hip hop turn the Pleasure Island boys took. Especially engaging and fun. And as always with any kids show, there has to be a little something hidden in the writing for the kids and all of it delivered.
Stage management also makes this show work. Lighting was expertly done, and it's always amazing to me how they make such a small circular stage so visually cohesive with the story line. Music and sound were phenomenal too.
My only real criticsm of the show is the song choice. The room would get a little antsy during the slow tempo solo pieces, and the Blue Fairy had such a sharp operatic sporano that I'm not sure it clicked with the younger audience. Not because of quality, but because I don't think they could follow and understand the lyrics. And the songs might have been a bit too long. But that's really just me being a nitpicking theater geek.
Especially great was the Q&A hosted by Hopper with the actors after the show. It really gave the kids a great education on the Theater and nice to see them take the time and engage their audience and answer some fun questions.
Pinocchio is definitely a treat. Fast paced, quick witted, and very exciting multi-directional use of the stage, will keep you entertained. I was actually a bit disappointed that it was only a smidge under an hour. Definitely one to see before the run is over August 29th.
*Pictured above is Jameson Cooper and Cory Goodrich (photo by Peter Coombs)