Child actors, directors deserve praise for 'Pinocchio'

December 17, 1998|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Children's Theatre of Annapolis, which gives local youngsters a chance to try out their acting talent, has mounted a production of "Pinocchio" that has much to recommend it, including imaginative sets, great costumes and some fine performances.

This production of the Richard Wade, Dick Gessner version of Carlo Collodi's classic 1883 story of a puppet has 31 acting, singing and dancing children ranging in age from 8 to 15.

There's Erin Kelly, who stars as Pinocchio with fine acting and puppetlike movements that seem totally natural; Meghan Bradshaw, a fabulous Fox, also natural and wonderfully adept at moving with comic grace, and Meghan Taylor, who is just as good as the fox's Cat partner.

For acrobatic skill, congratulations go to Lion Sarah Bingham and Tiger Christine Deremer. Credit for superior acting goes to ,, Charlie Himmelheber as Antonio, and to Danny Schwartz,who is a great Gepetto. My granddaughter, Marie, votes for her two favorites, 14-year-old Carly Fuller as Cricket and Margo Ambrosetti, also 14, as the Spirit of the Blue Skies.

Sadly, all of this does not add up to an unqualified success because the show is a series of disjointed, too-long scenes lacking the cohesive story, touching relationships and melodic score that made last year's production of "Charlotte's Web" so enchanting.

Marie, who is 7, pronounced "Pinocchio" a "good show for children 5 and under," who would believe Pinocchio is a real puppet because of the Halloween makeup lines drawn on the knee joints. But first-graders would recognize paint for what it is. And furthermore, they would wonder how people "could be trapped inside a whale whose mouth is wide open." Despite her objections, she still had a few favorite scenes, especially the one in which Pinocchio and Crickett forced the whale to sneeze so they could escape.

Jill Sharpe Compton, the first lady of the local musical stage, is the musical director, her last show in Anne Arundel before she moves to New York to join her husband. And pianist Kathy Smith deserves high praise for dedicating her considerable talents to every minute of the show. Unfortunately, she can't save a prosaic score with only one memorable tune.

Some of the technical problems, such as microphone difficulties that had sound going from barely audible to blaring in nanoseconds, undoubtedly were opening night difficulties that will be corrected by curtain time tomorrow. And perhaps the insipid score will not prevent others from enjoying the show.

The children and directors have worked hard and deserve support. Grandparents should enjoy seeing "Pinocchio," where for the price of a ticket they can enter the magic world of children for a little while.

"Pinocchio" runs Friday through Sunday at the Pascal Center for the Performing Arts at Anne Arundel Community College. Curtain times are 7 p.m. tomorrow, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Information: 410-757-2281.

Pub Date: 12/17/98

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