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My Son Pinocchio Jr. at Southwark Playhouse | Review

My Son Pinocchio Jr - Photo Eliza Wilmott.
My Son Pinocchio Jr – Photo Eliza Wilmott.

In My Son Pinocchio Jr, the classic tale of toymaker Geppetto’s little wooden puppet is given new life. The musical, which retells the classic story from Geppetto’s perspective, features the beloved immortal songs “When You Wish Upon a Star” and “I’ve Got No Strings” from the 1940 Disney animated classic Pinocchio, alongside a number of new songs by Oscar and Grammy winner Stephen Schwartz (Wicked, Pippin, Godspell etc.), with a book by David Stern, tackling timely issues about what it means to be the perfect child and what it means to be a proper parent.

This production at the Southwark Playhouse “Little” has been put on by The British Theatre Academy as part of their summer season which also includes Footloose, Once On This Island and Sunset Boulevard. TBTA were formed nearly thirty years ago as an accessible training ground for performers under the age of twenty-three and this is their fifth summer season. They have big boots to fill as the last two musicals in this particular space were The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button and Fiver which both had very young casts although not as young as this one which ranges from around eight to early twenties. But fill those boots they do as this is a superb show with very high production values.

The space is set as a nursery with a big wardrobe where not only are costumes stored but characters magically appear out of it too. There is an excellent use of oversized children’s building blocks which act as somewhere for the characters to stand as well as containing loads of props. Even the walls of the theatre are covered with lit displays and the whole set has a fairy-tale feel that will delight children of all ages (and adults too). The costumes are very bright and colourful in bold primary colours and are a perfect fit for the overall design – take a big bow Gregor Donelly who did both the set and the costumes. The use of theatrical masks for the “adults” gives them a hint of dark, scary malice.

Schwartz’s ten or so new songs fit in well with the two Leigh Harline and Ned Washington classics that everyone knows and loves although the pre-recorded backing tracks did sound a little cheesy at times. However, the real stars of the show are the young cast who give everything. They don’t all have the greatest voices but the youthful energy on the stage lit up the room and the sixty minutes flew by. It would be unfair to single out anyone especially as there are alternate casts for different performances – director Séimí Campbell (who’s currently the Assistant Director of Come From Away) must have had his work cut out working with multiple casts.

My Son Pinocchio Jr is a truncated version of the timeless story about parenthood, but it has all the elements we know and love including braying donkeys, the Blue Fairy and the whale although I did miss Jiminy Cricket!

If you want to see some potential future musical theatre stars, get down to the Southwark Playhouse before August 14th and see this delightful musical. As you walk down Newington Causeway afterwards, you’ll be wishing on a star with a spring in your step and a smile on your lips – whatever age you are.

4 stars

Review by Alan Fitter

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.

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

Features flashing lights and haze. Suitable for all the family.

Creative Team
Director – Seimi Campbell
Choreographer – Holly Hughes
Musical Director – Lauren Ronan
Designer – Gregor Donnelly
Lighting Designer – Andrew Exeter
Sound Designer – Andrew Johnson

British Theatre Academy present Disney’s
My Son Pinocchio Jr.
Music & Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, Book by David Stern
26 JUL – 14 AUG 2019
https://southwarkplayhouse.co.uk/

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