For three hours every day for the past few weeks, kids who are participating in the musical "Pinocchio" at the nexStage Theatre have dedicated themselves to a fun and fascinating production. Windup toys, robotic donkeys, gears, flywheels and zeppelins are not typical elements in the traditional story of "Pinocchio" by Carlo Collodi, but they're all included in the nexStage production.
"We receive e-mails every day about how much fun the kids are having," actor Patsy Wygle said. "They've been working their butts off."
Toys come to life in the updated retelling of the classic children's story at the nexStage Theatre's new, musical version, which originated at the Northwest Children's Theatre in Portland, Ore.
"The kids are learning so much," actor Keith Moore said. "The music is very good. It's not standard Disney songs. It's jazzy and bluesy. It's not easy to learn."
Wygle said this show features canned music, so the margin for error is very limited.
"They're learning a real history of music," Wygle said. "However, there's no whale in this version of 'Pinocchio.'"
The story is set in the industrial age of steam engines and modern machines. It's the tale of a toy maker named Geppetto, whose brand-new mechanical boy learns, through much trial and many errors, what it means to be human. This reimagining of the classic Collodi tale presents not a wooden puppet, but a robotic boy made out of cogs, wheels and tin.
With a golden gear that makes him go, Pinocchio sets out for a day of trouble accompanied by Crick, a somewhat flawed windup toy also created by Geppetto. When sly thieves Catjack and Foxtrot steal his precious gear, the chase is on to get it back. Along the way, Pinocchio is imprisoned for foolishness, turned into a mechanical donkey and ultimately flies to a zeppelin airship to save the day.
Protected by the Blue Fairy, the bringer of electricity, the musical score includes inventive songs like "Make a Copy" that cleverly combine a fictional historic backdrop with references to modern-day technology for today's tech-savvy kids.
This version of "Pinocchio," adapted by Milo Mowery with music composed by Rodolfo Ortega, puts a "steampunk" spin on the children's classic. "Steampunk" represents a world of copper and steel that reinvents modern machines using Victorian-age technology, where everything from abacuses to zeppelins are powered by steam, with gadgets and gizmos that Jules Verne and H.G. Wells would envy.
"The toys get jealous," Wygle said. "This version is more touching."
With creative roots in music, design and even fashion, "steampunk" is an appropriately rich, imaginative backdrop for Pinocchio's story.
While set in a world of stovepipes and steam, this adaptation is faithful to the major themes of the "Pinocchio" story. Audiences will recognize the iconic characters and scenes from other popular adaptations, like those in Disney's 1940 animated classic, as well as some lesser-known plots from Collodi's original tale. Mowery's adaptation includes the courtroom scene in which Pinocchio is tried for foolishness and culminates in a high-stakes scene not with a whale, but on a zeppelin. As in the original, morals like learning from your mistakes, taking responsibility and being honest are the key lessons in Pinocchio's journey.
Led by director Bruce Hostetler, this adaptation of Collodi's world is realized by some of Ketchum's most talented young thespians. The cast includes Natalie McStay as Pinocchio along with Max Albright, Samantha Black, Sam Brown, Samantha Brunkner, Emmett Fortuin, Tatum Fuller, Karsyn Geringer, Taylor Lanane, Blake Nelson, Nick Smith, Lauren Sunday, Brooke Sundholm, Remy Vernoy and Jamie Wygle.
The adult cast includes Dean Cerutti, Keith Moore, Doug Neff, Patty Parsons-Tewson, Jamey Reynolds, Levie Smith and Patsy Wygle.
"Half the cast of the production have taken classes at the nexStage," Wygle said.
"Pinocchio" performances will take place Friday, April 1, and Saturday, April 2, at 7 p.m. A matinee performance will take place on Sunday, April 3, at 3 p.m. The show will continue Friday, April 8, and Saturday, April 9, at 7 p.m. and for a matinee on Sunday, April 10, at 3 p.m. Tickets are $10 for children and $20 for adults, available at the nexStage Theatre or by calling 726-4857.
Sabina Dana Plasse: firstname.lastname@example.org