No Lie, PINOCCHIO's a Hit!
The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi have been told time and time again. Published in 1883 and translated to dozens of languages the world over, many are familiar with Pinocchio, the wooden puppet who longs to be a real boy but also has a nose that grows when he is lying. Through adaptation and adaptation, through almost every form of consumer media available, audiences the world over are familiar with the stories of the son of Gepetto.
This is what makes Director & Choreographer Nathaniel Niemi’s THE ADVENTURES OF PINOCCHIO a fabulous show to attend: it is new enough in its adaptation that everything feels fresh yet it is still about the core values of Pinocchio, making sure those who are new to the character and the story are not left out.
Running at HTY’s Tenney Theatre through May 18, The ADVENTURES OF PINOCCHIO has been adapted and devised inside and out by Niemi and the HTY ensemble: Sean-Joseph Choo, Maki’i'lei Ishihara, Ho’onani Kamai, Matthew Mazella, and Junior Tesoro. Throughout the rehearsal period, they took Collodi’s text and broke it down and found marvelous new ways to bring the essence of his story to life. Infused with characters new and old, the play also features a bevy of memorable, robust, and well polished songs (written by Niemi) that elevates the show’s production quality greatly.
The cast shares different roles throughout the production (although once created, Choo is primarily Pinocchio, with his fellow castmates helping to bring him to life at key moments) as puppet creator Gepetto laments the recent loss of his wife, whose puppeteer skills made the pair quite the artistic one. Left alone, he is resigned to his doldrums until he is greeted by a seemingly sentient block of wood, and an idea. Thus, Gepetto goes to work and creates a wooden boy, a puppet that has no strings, and names him Pinocchio. Pinocchio can talk, feel, and is capable of making decisions- this can often get him into trouble. He is often reminded by a talking cricket that trouble will befall him if he is a a bad boy, and yet he is often hoodwinked into various situations that get him into trouble because, hey, he’s only so young. Besides the obvious heart line of the play being the father and son relationship, the other side of the musical is exploring “truth and lies;” everyone Pinocchio meets somehow lies to, makes empty promises to, or manipulates the young wooden boy, and his growth throughout the production is reflected in his abilities to finally realize what is truth and what is not as well as what it means to be selfless, since doing the right thing may sometimes be scary and daunting. Taking Pinocchio to the puppet theatre, meeting a fox and a cat, Fun Land, and finally out to sea with Gepetto and a whale, this Pinocchio story hits all the necessary and core story beats, advancing said beats forward with delightful music and an earnest and heartwarming script about a boy who wants to be real.
The cast creates stunning visuals in their movements thanks to Niemi and his assistant choreographer, Harmony Tesoro. Chesley Cannon’s set design is remarkable, with a workshop that has many faces, turning into the various locales within the story with ease; he also went through the meticulous yet worth it process of crafting Pinocchio from real wood, making a puppet that the cast was able to bring to life and move around the stage with ease (though it’s actually very heavy- a sign of how strong and agile the company is!). Eric West worked with Cannon designing the set and the other puppets, making for a very vibrant set of characters. Iris Kim’s costume design has the company donning a base set of clothes that function as “company costumes,” for use when they are advancing the story or creating effects that aren’t necessarily named roles. However, she also creates vivid and radiant costumes for the company to assume when they need to, including a tall fire-eating ring leader, a radiant blue owl, and my personal favorites, a detailed fox and cat. Barett Hoover’s sound design is playful, clear, and on point, sometimes creating the soundscape of a tumultuous storm at sea and sometimes being so simple as having a whistle play every time Pinocchio’s nose grows. Brian Gilhooly’s lighting pairs well with Cannon and West’s set, further immersing each location in a very clear and well chosen display of color.
Be sure to carve out time with your family to see THE ADVENTURES OF PINOCCHIO. It is a fun, fulfilling, and heartwarming tale that most are familiar with, and is brought to new life with clever and poignant music and storytelling by Niemi and the HTY ensemble. It runs every Saturday through May 18, with tickets available at the link here.