The Adventures Of Pinocchio is no-strings-attached family fun

THE ADVENTURES OF PINOCCHIO by Neil Bartram and Brian Hill (Young Peoples Theatre, 165 Front East). Runs to January 5..


THE ADVENTURES OF PINOCCHIO by Neil Bartram and Brian Hill (Young Peoples Theatre, 165 Front East). Runs to January 5. $10-$54. 416-862-2222. See listing. Rating: NNNN

Just like last years Mary Poppins, Young Peoples Theatre has another excellent and family-friendly seasonal hit on its hands with The Adventures Of Pinocchio.

Carlo Collodis tale of the eponymous wooden puppets (Connor Lucas) attempts to withstand temptation, please his concerned father Geppetto (Shawn Wright) and become a real boy has, over the decades, been adapted and translated hundreds of times.

But itd be hard to match the charm, wit and poignancy of this 70-minute musical version by Neil Bartram (music, lyrics) and Brian Hill (book).

The creators and director Sheila McCarthy have thought through most elements of the tale. Even the backstory of Geppettos dead wife usually an annoying example of the missing-mother syndrome in fairy tales is effectively and efficiently suggested by a moving number in which the widower dances with one of her old dresses.

There are lots of surprises in Joanna Yus sets and costumes, ranging from Pinocchios emergence from a block of wood to the appearance of a giant fish in the ocean. Even the growing of Pinocchios nose (when he lies) is achieved in a way thats simple yet effective. All the details rely less on expensive props and flashy pyrotechnics than on imagination.

The songs are full of clever rhymes and hummable melodies that help propel the plot and add to character. And the cast is uniformly excellent, from musical veterans like Wright and Susan Henley (as a sinister driver/circus ringmaster) to gifted young performers like Jacob Macinnis (as a sadistic puppet master), Arinea Hermans and Joel Cumber (as the most wickedly fun cat and fox combo youll ever see), Malindi Ayienga as an assured, clear-voiced narrator and Blue Fairy and Sierra Holder and Kelsey Verzotti (as Mary and Annette say their names together quickly and youll get another cute joke).

Even with his face partly obscured by a mask for most of the show, Lucas effectively captures Pinocchios inner struggles. And he nails one of the centrepiece dance numbers, choreographed by Julie Tomaino, complete with vigorous tapping.

YPTs decision to mount this story this season feels appropriate. The shows overarching theme of being accountable for ones actions resonates powerfully especially in a time when truth seems to be fluid.

@glennsumi

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