Disney’s “Pinocchio” is a classic tale in which a puppet comes to life after his maker wishes it to be so. Pinocchio, the puppet-turned-boy, learns lessons of honesty and truth as he navigates the real world.
Many are familiar with the boy whose nose grows when he lies and his friend Jiminy Cricket. But what about Gepetto, the man who created the puppet?
That’s what Eau Claire Children’s Theatre’s production of “My Son Pinocchio” aims to find out, said actor Kevin Grady, who plays the puppet maker.
“It follows Gepetto, and how he feels about having this new boy all of a sudden he’s in charge of so late in life and what an adjustment that is for him,” Grady said. “Pinocchio learns to be good and true and honest, but what does Gepetto learn in the original story? That’s what we find out through this play.”
“My Son Pinocchio” runs Friday through Sunday at The State Theatre, 316 Eau Claire St. Children can add to the experience by attending “Pinocchio’s Adventure” at noon Saturday to go on an adventure with the puppet, the Blue Fairy and Jiminy Cricket.
Theatergoers will recognize many aspects of the original film, since it follows the same storyline from a different perspective, Grady said. Iconic movie elements such as Pleasure Island, the Blue Fairy and even the scene with the whale swallowing the boat are all present in the stage production.
The two classic songs “When You Wish Upon a Star” and “I’ve Got No Strings” are featured as well. However, a host of new songs by award-winning composer Stephen Schwartz (“Enchanted” and “Wicked”) were also added.
“He (Schwartz) is somebody anybody in the musical theater world really looks up to,” Grady said. “To get him to write the music for this show is a feather in anybody’s hat.”
It is for Owen Hilton, who is playing Pinocchio in the show. He said he enjoys the intricacy of the added songs.
“I really like Stromboli’s Song after I leave (the stage),” he said. “It’s a faster song with a lot of hard words in there, and I kind of like those challenging songs.”
But this isn’t Owen’s first time around the block. He performed as the same role in the “junior” version of the show during the summer of 2015. When he heard ECCT was doing it again, he wanted to give it another try.
On the surface, the show is a ton of fun, Nino Parisi, who plays professor Buonragazzo, said. He thinks the humor will appeal to both children and adults — perhaps adults even more so.
As a parent himself (whose son is also in the show), Parisi can relate to some of what he calls the “parental myths” that come about as Gepetto learns to care for Pinocchio.
“The whole thing dispels that myth we’re going to be the perfect parent and then we become parents and realize we are not,” Parisi said. “This is a Disney way of confronting imperfect parenting and imperfect children.”
There’s a lesson and a lot of humor to find in that, Amy Des Forge, who plays fairy-in-training Sue, said. It’s a lighthearted show with some good morals that she thinks can be learned from at any age.
If a family is just looking for a good time, they are guaranteed to find it. But if they are looking to find some sort of deeper connection, Des Forge thinks they’ll find that, too.
“I think it’ll strengthen a parent and kid’s connection to be able to talk about the hard things that sometimes parents and kids don’t want to talk about, like making mistakes,” she said.
Like any Disney movie, there’s a moral behind the mayhem, and “My Son Pinocchio” won’t be any different.
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