Review: Pinocchio

PINOCCHIO adapted by Hugo Belanger from Carlo Collodis story (Theatre Tout a Trac). At Young Peoples Theatre (165 Front East)..

PINOCCHIO adapted by Hugo Belanger from Carlo Collodis story (Theatre Tout a Trac). At Young Peoples Theatre (165 Front East). Runs to March 21. $25-$34. 416-862-2222, See listing. Rating: NNN

I wont grow a long nose for saying that Theatre Tout a Tracs adaptation of the classic childrens tale Pinocchio is a delight for the eyes.

Too bad the text (translated by Bobby Theodore) and direction, both by Hugo Belanger, arent up to the visuals.

The story of a log who wants first to be a puppet and then a real boy is an immediate draw for young audiences. The addition of a duplicitous fox and cat, a fire-bearded man who runs a puppet theatre, a child-protecting fairy and a talking cricket makes the cast of characters even more appealing.

In a production that includes various sorts of puppetry, masks and some great costumes and sets by Patrice Charbonneau-Brunelle, there are a number of engaging performances, notably Krystel Descarys in the title role. She adeptly controls the mechanical Pinocchio while helping to define the role using her own voice and face.

Claude Tremblay as Geppetto, the toymaker who carves the puppet and becomes his father, is also warm and believable. His physical comedy wins over kids in the first scene.

But the animal duo who are the works comic villains, Milva Menards cat and Gabriel DeSantis-Carons fox, are rarely as funny or winning. They should be both seductive and clownish, fooling Pinocchio over and over again with their scams, but young viewers are unmoved by anything they do.

Despite the often commonplace text, the production elements are always intriguing, from Pinocchios birth from the log to the enticing but corrupting Toyland and a shadow-puppetry trip to the bottom of the ocean. And its a nice touch to show Pinocchios transformation into a flesh-and-blood boy stemming from what hes learned rather than external magic. Theres also a nicely subtle hint at the end that suggests the whole puppet experience was a dream for the human Pinocchio.

Note: there are added performances of Pinocchio during March Break, with a puppet lab for parents and children included in the ticket price.

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