by Terrance V. Mc Arthur
I went to the Enchanted Playhouse in Visalia, and what did I see?
OK, I’ll give you clues, and see how long it takes you to guess the answer:
And the answer is…PINOCCHIO!
That’s right, Pinocchio is playing at the Enchanted Playhouse through May 12, and it’s a combination of the Carlo Collodi original and original elements written by John Marley. It’s not quite the same as the Disney version, but you will hear “When You Wish Upon a Star”…several times. Of course, you will also hear Cole Porter and Styne & Sondheim, and some classical music.
If the play is Pinocchio, it’s important that the audience wants the puppet to turn into a real boy, so only a special boy will do. Andrew Rozum is small, cute, wears glasses, and you can hear every word he says. That’s pretty good, in my book.
Ali Malingen was a standout in EP’s The Little Mermaid, and she provides a strong support as the Blue Fairy, in a billowy costume that gives her an ethereal look, yet doesn’t hide her curves. Her voice is strong, and she encourages the audience to respond in call-and-response fashion with her nods, headshakes, and strategically-shown cue cards. The Blue Fairy’s delightful mini-fairy companion, Aqua (Katie Peters), is sweet and lovely, and does everything she is supposed to do.
From the handsome Prince in Mermaid to Mr. Fire eater in Pinocchio is quite a leap, but Michael Callender accomplishes the feat with great skill. Instead of a kindly, royal demeanor, he creates a pot-bellied, pompous, second-rate puppeteer (Oh-oh, I think I just described myself). By the way, that pot-belly is thanks to an amazing costume, and Debbie Terry and Alison Wahlen should be applauded for their costumes. Pinocchio’s costume imitates the Disney puppet’s color scheme, but it is so recognized in our culture that it would have been foolish to tamper with our memories.
Mr. Cricket (Evan Borboa) and Ms. Cat (Allison Enos) were bright spots in a good cast. Borboa was a gangly, spelling-challenged insect in bright-green make-up, while Allison was purr-fect in a feline hairdo. Jennifer Cawley gifted the sinister Coachman with a gleeful nastiness that would never hurt anyone but a donkey.
Carrie Murphy’s set designs created a Disneyesque Italian village, a carnivalized Funland where bad little boys could make donkeys of themselves, and some wonderful transformations of a Whale’s insides into the open sea. A highlight of the show is the undersea interlude, a black-light fantasy of glowing sea creatures and coral.
As the audience is taught to respond to the situations in the play, the Enchanted Playhouse provides a perfect place for a child’s first exposure to live theatre.
The Enchanted Playhouse is located at The Main Street Theatre, 307 E Main, Visalia. Pinocchio continues May 4, 5, 11, & 12 at 7 p.m., with a 2 p.m. Sunday matinee April 29 & May 6. Tickets are $7 in advance and $8 at the door.
Before the show, wander two doors east to Mearle’s on Main, tucked into a corner of Surplus City, for a scoop of Superior Dairy (Hanford’s finest) ice cream. They even have the old booths from the original Mearle’s, and a Rockola jukebox.