Thursday November 23rd 2017

“The Adventures of Pinocchio”

Over the years, we have seen many versions of the story of the puppet boy who became real, “Pinocchio” and in each, the moral has always been about truth and love. Of course, there are some very scary scenes in most  productions, but in the World Premiere of the new adaptation, with a book by Brian Hill and a marvelous score by Neil Bartman, now onstage at Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier under the skillful direction of Rachel Rockwell, the children will not find themselves  afraid. Even the evil Fox (Derek Hasenstab) and his co-hort Cat ( the always powerful Heidi Kettenring) are more of a vaudeville/”Chorus Line”/Bob Fosse team than bad guys. The whale scene was handled with some great puppetry and thus the younger audience never really sees them being swallowed up. I know that last year, at Marriott’s version, my granddaughter, Sarah was fine until that part of the play and then wanted to head for the lobby. She had no problem with this version at all.

The story is a little different in that Hill retells Carlo Collodi’s story about the woodcarver, Geppetto ( the always reliable Don Forston), who had never had a child, cutting down the tree that he had planted at his wife’s gravesite and carving it into something special, a boy. From the begining we meet “The Storyteller” ( Melody Betts ) who seems to always be where needed to take young Pinocchio ( deftly handled by  Skylar Adams) on the right path- to teach him about “CHOICES”! That is one of the morals to this tale. Just because something is on the road before you doesn’t mean you have to take it. ne has to think it through and the choices they make will , in the end, determine their fate. We do fingout later that she is more than the storyteller, but I imagine most of the audience figured it our about half-way through this 70 sparkling minutes of magic on stage.

The stage at Chicago Shakespeare Theater is three sided so there are no bad seats. Your family will see all the ation no matter where they sit. And is there action! There are wonderful puppets (Meredith Miller), sets (Kevin Depinet), costumes (Rachel Anne Healy) wigs and make-up(Melissa Veal) and lighting (jesse Klug). The music led by Neil Bartram ( the composer himself) fills the theater with words of wisdom in the telling of this tale and this dynamic and energetic cast, small in numbers is great in talents. many of the ensemble members take on role after role which means quick costume changes, lots of them!

Adam, my theater going grandson, truly felt that this rendition was better than the one he had previously seen ( and after all, he is now 6 1/2) and he liked the little references to “the cricket”. He remembers Jimney Cricket from the Disney animated version and thought that it was neat that Pinocchio kept finding a cricket and asking him for advice, but them flicked him away, never hurting him. In addition to the previous cast members, hats off to Liz Pazik, Ron Rains,Dylan Saunders,Hannah Sielatycki. Yes, a total of ten actors fill the stage with music, dance and marvelous story telling  in this wonderful production of “The Adventures of Pinocchio” which will continue at Navy Pier through August 28th with performances as follows:

Wednesdays at 11 am,Thursday,Friday,Saturday and Sundays at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Tickets range from $18-$25 and are available at the box office, by phone at 312-595-5600 or online at

On August 2nd at 1 p.m. and August 11th at 6 p.m. Chicago Shakespeare will have a special feature in the “Great Hall” – Pinocchio and ( who also did the choreography).

Discounted parking is available ( 40% off). Just bring your parking pass to the theater for validation. Enjoy what is left of Summer at Navy Pier!


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