Thursday, December 1, 2011

Fast, funny and fantastic

"Pinocchio" at Centerstage 

reviewed by Michael Dresdner

My biggest worry writing this review is that I’ll run out of superlatives. That’s because there’s not a single element of "Pinocchio" at Centerstage that isn’t exemplary. It’s a big, blustery, joyous, musical olio chock full of outstanding singing, dancing and acting, delightful characters, superb music, great direction and choreography, brilliantly creative props and sets… See what I mean? Not enough superlatives.

This production, adroitly directed by Vanessa Miller, is not a true musical or play, but a British style Panto, a traditional entertainment generally presented in mid-winter, though not Christmas themed. It combines a familiar fairy tale, in this case "Pinocchio", with song, dance, outrageous costumes, props and sets, vaudeville style acts, comedy, contemporary and local humor, and lots of audience participation. You’ll be encouraged to comment, boo, cheer, and give advice and warnings to the various characters, and a handful of children get to go onstage to help out with a comic follow-the-bouncing-ball type sing-along. The result is a non-stop rush of giddiness for both the cast and the audience.

Pinocchio (Daniel Goodman) is no less than a rubber-jointed, singing, dancing, acrobatic marvel, reminiscent of Dick Van Dyke at his best. His love object is the beautiful Princess Brittany (Sonya Meyer), who does for Ms. Spears what Tina Fey did for Sarah Palin. Meyer, who started in children’s theatre and established herself as a vocal sensation before leaving the area for college, is back and better than ever. A true triple threat, her magnificent voice is amplified by great dancing as well as acting. She’s attended by a rhymed troupe of talented BFFs named Addison, Madison, Chelsea and Kelsey (Fiona Webber, Olivia Barry, Hannah Shreaves, Celeste Barry.)

No less a triple threat talent is the Blue Fairy (Meg McLynn), another powerful vocalist and dancer who arrives on roller skates to talk to the audience at the head of the show. She later tap dances, glides on in an office chair, and generally covers the bases as an outrageous integral character cum narrator.

One of the Panto conventions is to have a female lead played by a man in drag. In this case it is Geppetta (Bob De Dea,) the female version of the famed puppet maker. His ample height is intensified by a Marge Simpson size wig, and his witty banter made the funnier by his outrageous appearance. Also traditional to Panto is a lead boy played by a female. Here it’s Lampwick (Hannah Mootz), who, like the rest of the cast, has it all together; singing, dancing, comedy and acting.

Rounding out the cast is a gaggle of other equally talented folks, often playing multiple parts. They include the delightfully evil and slightly addled Stromboli (Daniel Wood), King Frank (Sam Barber), a police officer, baker, prime minister and a governess (Jeremy Adams, Kip Brookbank, CJ Conrad, Megan Ann Jones) .

The redoubtable David Duvall, easily the best in the west, handles the superb musical direction and anchors a four piece band (with John VanZanten, Andrew Carson and Mark Malcolm) that pushes the pace, swinging effortlessly through a wealth of musical styles and sound effects, all done to perfection. Costume designer Ron Leamon, along with wig stylist Johnni Whitby, runs the gamut through an amazingly rendered puppet costume with animatronic growing nose, a stunning Princess Brittany, the outsized and outrageous Geppetta, and an over-the-top blue fairy, replete with matching blue wig and outfit enhanced by light-emitting rings and hair adornments. Sarah Sugarbaker’s clean set is further graced with stunning add-ons, like a gobbling whale by Steffon Moody, and amplified with lighting effects by Amy Silveria. I can’t name them all, but the entire production support group deserves to take a bow.

If you’ve been reading my reviews lately you might have noticed that this is the third of three praising Centerstage productions, a record that might make the wise man associate “Centerstage” with “season tickets.” Whatever artistic director Alan Bryce is doing, he ought to bottle it and send a case to the other theatres in the area. It would be, as they say in Yiddish, a real mitzvah.

In any case, don’t miss this night of mood-elevating jollity. It will be gone before you know it, and at this time of year, this is exactly what we all need.

"Pinocchio "
through Dec. 23, 2011

3200 SW Dash Point Road
Federal Way, WA 98003

Daniel Goodman as PINOCCHIO; Meg McLynn as THE BLUE FAIRY
Daniel Goodman as PINOCCHIO; Daniel Wood as STROMBOLI; Hannah Mootz as LAMPWICK

Bob DeDea as GEPETTA; Daniel Goodman as PINOCCHIO, Sonya Meyer as Princess Brittany
Sam Barker as KING FRANK and others

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