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The recent showing of Stage Struck’s Pinnochio at the Grand Theatre in Lancaster, while it may not be a Tony award-winning Tour de Force, makes not only for a refreshingly innocent and light-hearted evening but also showed a lot of potential in a mostly inexperienced but talented cast. Pinocchio took the audience on a fantastical adventure full of wacky characters, precarious situations and charming moments.
It was evident from the onset and throughout that the entire cast was having a whale of a time, from Geppetto (played wonderfully by Stewart Scothern) to Jiminy Cricket to Pinocchio (also played brilliantly by Bella Butler, giving a bold, fresh new take on the classic character). The majority of laughs came from the playful interplay between Jiminy Cricket and the Blue Fairy, played uproariously by Sarah O’Brien and Amanda Tomlinson who displayed hilarious chemistry while especially while bickering back and forth looking in the forest for the star that would become Pinocchio. The lead, Pinocchio, was played with an endearing sense of wonder, earnestness and curiosity. The character arc and the lesson learned were made easy for children to understand and Butler’s performance was convincing as the adventurous, cocky young, magically animated toy who wants nothing more than to see the world and have fun to the more humble boy whose dreams finally come true by the end.
Many of the production’s sweeter and more tender moments were with Geppetto and his wife, Giselda, who gave arguably the two standout performances, making you believe in this elderly couple who have been together practically a lifetime. Giselda continually has to remind Geppetto not to forget his things in his workshop and lovingly puts warm food on his plate. In the dialogue and knowing glances between the two, it was very believable that this was a relationship between two people made for each other.
In my opinion, the best song of the entire production was the rendition of Always Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide, laying down the whole message of the story in one earworm that stays with you long after you leave the theatre. One of the aspects I thought was handled the best was how seamlessly they put the dialogue into song form without it ever feeling forced or unnatural. A band of musicians who brought their A game accompanied all this, giving excellent backing music without it distracting from or drowning out the main cast.
Overall, I would recommend Pinocchio to a friend or a family with small children. There’s nothing not to enjoy, and everyone can probably find something to love in here – likeable performances from the whole cast, tongue-in-cheek tone to keep you laughing throughout, great catchy songs and colourful costumes. There is a solid message built in here about humility, honesty and being true to yourself – all lessons we learn early on life but can forget from time to time, so it’s nice to be reminded now and then with a retelling of a tale we all remember from the classic Disney version from childhood.