'Pinocchio' tour plugs Ocean City

February 07, 1993|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff Writer

"Pinocchio" came to Westminster yesterday, warming nearly 1,500 chilled Carroll residents with an adaptation of the classic story and summer dreams of Ocean City.

To thank the thousands of families who make the resort part of their summer vacation plans, Ocean City officials have sent Parker Productions Inc. on tour through Maryland and southern Pennsylvania. Westminster High School was among the tour's stops.

"We're here to thank you," said "Prospector Parker," known offstage as Bill Wills, who with his wife, Sue, runs Parker Productions at the Carousel Hotel in Ocean City. "We honestly believe we are one of the finest places on the East Coast."

Not one to miss an advertising opportunity for either Parker Productions or Ocean City, Mr. Wills brought along a bunch of brochures touting the resort's hotels, rental properties and entertainment for the audience. His summer productions will include "Little Red Riding Hood" and "Alice in Wonderland."

Linda Cinquegrani of Eldersburg picked up brochures from a table outside the high school auditorium during a bathroom break with 3-year-old son Frank.

"I've gone to Ocean City every summer since I was an infant," Ms. Cinquegrani said.

She said her 7-year-old daughter, Lauren, has seen Mr. Parker's productions, including "The Wizard of Oz," during family vacations in Ocean City.

"This is the first time we've seen one here," she said. "They're great. They're always different than the original stories."

Though "Pinocchio" is familiar to most children, Mr. Parker's version of the 100-year-old tale varied from popular versions. There were familiar characters, of course, such as Papa Geppetto; Pinocchio; the Blue Fairy; Strombrosi, the evil puppeteer; and Candlewick, the mischievous boy who leads Pinocchio astray.

But occasionally, Mr. Parker's production invited audience participation. When Geppetto first hears a voice in his puppet shop, for example, he asks the children in the audience to yell, "It's him!" when he points to the right puppet. Children gladly obliged.

On stage, the characters traveled to the Land of Fun and Play and into the belly of a whale. There was singing, too -- though not the Disney music familiar to most.

"This is my version of the story," Mr. Parker, dressed as an old prospector, told the audience before the curtains went up.

The play won rave reviews from its audience.

"It's great," said Tommy Taggart of Taneytown, whose grandmother brought him to his "first play put on by real people."

Mr. Parker's productions appeal to families because they are geared for children, provide a free afternoon of entertainment and are professionally done, said Tom Smith, a recreation supervisor with the Carroll County Recreation and Parks Department. "I think all these things draw people here," he said.

The recreation and parks department co-sponsored the event, arranging for the use of Westminster High School and promoting the play. Tickets were free.

John Byrne of Westminster couldn't pass up a chance to bring his three children, Brendan, 8, Caitlin, 5, and Kirsten, 2.

"We always try to come to the attractions at the high school," Mr. Byrne said. "It's great for the children. They enjoy the plays."

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