Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Puppetry at Hanna Is Great

Cleveland Press November 24, 1965

Along toward the end of the first act Pinocchio, the puppet who has come to life, takes part in a puppet show within a puppet show. He sings the line, "I have no strings to hamper me."

He does have strings, of course, but it is part of the charm and ingenuity of this show that this doesn't matter, that Pinocchio -- strings and all -- is distinctive from the puppets that are playing puppets.

Puppeteer Bobby Clark and composer Arnold Miller have fashioned a musical that is ideal for children. The tunes are simple, serviceable and melodious, done with a humor that will appeal to kids.

For both young and old there is the amazing wizardry of getting all those life size marionettes on stage moving them precisely and keeping them from getting tangled. To me, the latter was the most amazing feat o all.

SEVERAL SCENES have been created with the obvious intent of filling the stage with action. The opening has all the toys in a toy shop coming to life at night for a party. There is a puppet band, an ostrich ballerina a calico elephant, a loose-limbed clown, another on skates ("Hey, look, the wheels move") and a triple jack-in-the-box.

Later, Pinocchio is lost in an enchanted forest filled with fluttering butterflies, rabbits, squirrels and trees that come to life and sing, dance and talk.

And there is Pinocchio swimming through an ocean filled with sea horses, jellyfish (in six delicious flavors -- apple, peach. grape, cherry, orange and lemon, and Oliver Octopus Esquire with a W. C. Fields' voice.

CLARK HAS GIVEN his marionettes distinctive characteristics. There is the villainous Frobonnini with his moving, bushy eyebrows;the tall, lanky (about 6 feet) Findlay Fairweather the fox, and a delightful creature called Kolo the dog. Even with all those puppets it's the dog that steals the show. Pinocchio himself has a nose that grows when-he lies.

The show runs a little more than an hour and a half. It is not too long for youngsters, there is nothing in it that will frighten them, and they will find it amusing. These conclusions are based on observing three of my own -- ages 4, 6 and 8 -- at yesterday's opening.

To some is may seem like heresy to have puppets on the legitimate stage. I suspect that over the years there have been flesh and blood actors at the Hanna who were more wooden than these.