The Pinocchio story has been turned into a pantomime by Upstage Theatre for this July School holiday season.

A great favourite with audiences both young and old this imaginative version of Pinocchio brings to life the story of the little wooden puppet who dreams of becoming a “real” boy. With no strings attached, Upstage Theatre’s contribution to holiday fun gives the audience plenty of opportunities to boo and hiss the evil puppet master and his henchman while cheering loudly for Pinocchio and his companion, Figaro The Cricket.

With Cherylene O’Brien as Pinocchio, Paul McLean as Figaro The Cricket, Deirdre Quinn as Vixen Worthington Foulfeather the mischievous Fox, Paul Trueack as Stromboli The Evil Puppet Master, Stephen Popowski as Pinocchio’s father Geppetto and Shelley Pontiac as the Blue Fairy, (with Annette McLean and Caetlyn McLean filling the tight cast) this slick traditional pantomime guarantees lots of laughs with toe-tapping songs.

So come along and join Upstage Theatre as they bring to life this old Favourite Tale of Pinocchio the little puppet, who learns that honesty is the best policy and by telling the truth you can make your “Dreams Come True”
Steve Popowski – Geppetto/Seaweed/Tin Soldier
Paul Danger McLean – Fiagro the Cricket
Cherylene O’Brien – Pinocchio
Shelly Pontiac – Blue Fairy
Paul Trueack – Stromboli/Captain Monstro
Caetlyn McLean – Lion/Mermaid
AJ McLean – Mrs Geppetto/Clown
Deirdre Quinn – Foulfeather

John Martin – Director/Sound
John Penberthy – Musical Director
Violet Rowe – Props and Wardrobe
Caetlyn McLean – Sound and Video
The first things this reviewer noticed when walking into the venue where Upstage were about to perform their version of Pinocchio, was that it was going to take place on the hall floor (not a stage) and that the ‘littlies’ were sitting on rugs up front on the floor. This is ideal for two reasons: the littlies don’t have trouble seeing over adult heads; and they are right up where the action is going to be, making the whole theatre going experience quite exiting and memorable for them. A huge tick for Upstage Theatre Company – they think things through with their potential audience clearly in mind.

This Pinocchio, as written by the company’s founders, John Martin and Deirdre Quinn, is a mash-up of the original story by Carlo Collodi and the Walt Disney film version. This one, however, is fun (this reviewer finds the other two versions way too dark) – with catchy song and dance numbers, bad puns, Abbott and Costello routines, theatrical in-jokes, and plenty of excuses for the audience to cheer, boo and make the obligatory noises required in a pantomime.

The star of this show, both character-wise and performance-wise is Cherylene O’Brien as Pinocchio. O’Brien is just simply brilliant. Her preciseness in the way she moves as a puppet shows off her obvious dance training and skill, and she has perfect control over the young audience. O’Brien succeeds at the difficult task of making what is basically a ‘naughty boy’ character into something very likable. Deirdre Quinn slinks around beautifully as Vixen Worthington Foulfeather and looks great in Violet Rowe’s very ‘fitting’ costumes; with Steve Popowski and A J McLean looking and sounding as if they have just stepped out of the Dolmio commercial as the very funny Mr and Mrs Geppetto (yes, there’s female equality in this version).

As Fiagro the Cricket (nice way of getting around Disney copyright), Paul Danger McLean has a singing voice we could hear a lot more of. Shelly Pontiac does a very nice job as The Blue Fairy; while Paul Trueack (Stromboli/Captain Monstro) and Caetlyn McLean (Lion/Mermaid) do well. Although Trueack seems to get a little breathy with his fast paced songs, and Caetlyn needs to raise her speaking voice slightly.

Martin has directed a lovely, fun piece of affordable, pure enjoyment for the whole family. So don’t let any strings tie you down – go take the family to see Pinocchio.

Reviewed by Brian Godfrey