Children's theater is not represented well in the world of video. Many stage classics become video presentations with either realistic settings or mind-bending effects. The Globalstage folk look to change that with a series (six per year) of plays filmed on stages around the world. Except for a maddening opening with host Professor McNamer tooling around Louisville, Kentucky, talking to a youngster about the city and the play before entering the theater, kids age 6 and up should be entranced with this stage production. Set in Pinocchio's original time and place--the Italian Renaissance--the play starts with actors talking and scurrying on stage trying to set up the story for their audience. One curious problem--some actors are in the wrong play! After sorting out our actors and costumes, the play unfolds.
As with the best of children's drama, the production does not talk down to kids. Pinocchio's themes of unconditional love, education, and truthfulness are presented with great clarity. And there are plenty of tricks up the producers' sleeves, from the comical fate of Jiminy Cricket to the colorful, flowing costumes. One can only root for this series to continue. The video contains a pamphlet on this history of the play and questions about what is being taught. --Doug Thomas
Performed in the style of the commedia dell'arte, this production of Pinocchio is both historical and innovative. With the look and feel of Renaissance Italy, colorful costumes are topped by exaggerated partial masks. Children and their parents will be caught up in the adventures of the wooden boy/puppet presented as a live musical production with original music. The talented actors, the clever sets, the intimate staging, all combine to capture and hold the attention of viewers who are old enough to relate to the length and fullness of the story. After all, Pinocchio must contend with con artists, robbers, his transformation into a donkey, and his adventures inside a giant fish. He is endearing because he is so "human." The filming of the stage performance is so expertly done that one can smell the greasepaint. While the video is "hosted" by two theater attendees, an older woman and her young male charge, it is the play itself that excites. Their post-play discussion of the themes inherent in Pinocchio is interesting but a touch anticlimactic, as are the behind-the-scenes interviews. Children's theater is alive and well! A 1998 Parents' Choice® Gold Award.
Reviewed by Yvonne Coleman, Parents' Choice® 1998 -- From Parents' Choice®