Review: My Son Pinocchio Jr.

4 star rating
A re-engineered version of the much-loved Pinocchio story offers a new twist and bags of opportunity for a well-schooled ensemble from the BTA to shine and delight.
My Son Pinocchio Jr. at Southwark Playhouse

Image: Southwark Playhouse



Closes here: Wednesday 14 August 2019

Author:
David Stern

Composer:
Stephen Schwartz

Lyricist:
Stephen Schwartz

Director:
Seimi Campbell

Cast:

(Press night cast) ...

Ethan Quinn - Pinocchio

James Sampson - Geppetto

Joy Clark - Blue Fairy

Felix Hepburn - Stromboli

Amelie Williams - Fairies in Training

Amelia Ioannou - Fairies in Training

Paul Sarte - Fairies in Training

Albi Fenner - Fairies in Training

Ryan Trevatt - Town Mothers & Fathers

James Knudsen - Town Mothers & Fathers

Cara McTiernan - Town Mothers & Fathers

Emily Brady - Town Mothers & Fathers

Chloe Weir - Town Children

Abigail Tebbit - Town Children

Rory Curtis - Town Children

Therese Sarte - Town Children


Synopsis


The classic tale of Geppetto's little wooden puppet is given new life Disney's My Son Pinocchio Jr., a new musical that retells the classic story from a fresh perspective.


When the Blue Fairy grants Geppetto's wish to bring his beloved puppet to life, the new father quickly learns that being a parent is full of challenges.


He struggles to make his son "the perfect boy," only to lose him to a gang of Roustabouts.


When faced with the thought of never seeing Pinocchio again, Geppetto truly learns the meaning of family, and being a father.


Featuring beloved classics "When You Wish upon a Star" and "I've Got No Strings" alongside a host of new songs by Oscar and Grammy Award winner Stephen Schwartz, this is a show sure to delight audiences of all ages.


Background


Presented by the British Theatre Academy, this youth production is presented by arrangement with Music Theatre International (Europe).


Features flashing lights and haze.


ActDrop reviews


Peter Brown

Performance date: Thursday 1 August 2019
Review star rating image

Walking back to the tube station after watching this production from The British Theatre Academy, I couldn't help feeling just a little insignificant in comparison with the audacious production I'd just seen.


In fact, every time I watch one of the BTA's shows - and I've seen many in the past few years - I leave with almost the same sense.


According to my dictionary, 'audacious' means "showing a willingness to take surprisingly bold risks".


The 'bold' element here emanates largely from the scale of the operation.


For this show, the BTA has taken around 130 young actors (according to my head count, at least) and assembled them into different casts to put on the show.


And if that's not audacious enough for you ... multiply that by 5 different shows to make up the current season, now underway at Southwark Playhouse.


The numbers involved in each show varies, but the whole enterprise is a staggeringly formidable undertaking.


As for the 'risk', well you can probably judge for yourself what it might entail given the sheer numbers, and when you consider what putting on any show actually involves.


But there are ways of offsetting risk.


In BTA's case, it's the commitment, drive, energy, determination and talent that all the young actors here contribute in spades.


As you might have surmised from the title, My Son Pinocchio Jr., provides a mix of roles for actors of different ages, with some very young actors here supported by older ones.


Though the basic storyline will be familiar, there's also some audacity to be found in David Stern's well-engineered plot, presenting us with (together with the basic much-loved storyline) the surprising question of whether some parents should actually be parents at all.


James Sampson's well-described Geppetto is certainly a struggling parent.


Having yearned for a son of his own, he's discovered that parenting can be tough and that his newly-acquired infant, Pinocchio, is not the kind of person who is going to follow tamely and obediently in Dad's footsteps.


The more significant theme, it turns out, is about being who you want to be and not what someone else wants you to be - a useful tip for parents and children alike.


Four 'fairies in training' are chatting away, snuggled under a sheet, while we take our seats and we find them greeting their mentor, the Blue Fairy, when the show starts.


But fairy training takes a bit of a back seat as Joy Clark's kindly and patient fairy has to wrestle with Geppetto's parenting issues.


The musical numbers provide an amply tuneful variety of melodies with ever-popular songs like 'When You Wish Upon A Star' and 'I've Got No Strings' included in the line-up.


A running time of just around the one hour mark proves almost ideal, and the well-schooled ensemble drive the piece swiftly and fluidly along in hitch-free fashion.


Joy Clark's adept vocals are both charming and delightful among the commendable work from the lead actors, and the ensemble singing is particularly impressive - I especially enjoyed 'Toys' one of a clutch of catchy numbers which allow the cast to shine and delight.


Though there's considerable skill and talent on display here, it's not the most powerful impression one takes away from this show.


Come the curtain call, it's the beaming faces on the cast that betray what really matters - the exhilarating and infectious joy of performing.


If you've never seen any of The British Theatre Academy's work, I strongly urge you to find time to see one (or more!) of this season's productions.



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