Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Theater: Kabuki "Pinocchio"

This makes complete sense to me. So much so I have to wonder why I haven't see someone do it before... 

(Note: apologies for the weird formatting below - I could not get Blogger to behave today!)

Here are some excerpts from a wonderful article in the Boston Globe:

A Kabuki-influenced version of “Pinocchio” may strike some as the sort of theatrical experiment best suited to an avant-garde troupe performing in a dimly lit basement. But Wendy Lement and Steven Bogart... promise all the laughs and tugged heartstrings traditional to the tale of the wooden puppet who wants to become a real boy, along with some new shading. 
“When we went back to the original story, I was startled at how funny it is,” says Lement, Wheelock’s producer and co-artistic director. “It’s both hysterically funny and very dark in places, and both of those are combined in 
Kabuki is a highly stylized form of traditional Japanese drama involving singing, dancing, and elaborate costumes and makeup. With performances through Feb. 22 at Wheelock, this “Pinocchio” is a world premiere version of the story of the mischievous creation of the poor puppeteer Geppetto. 
...But if it was not set in Pinocchio’s native Italy, then where? Soon she and Bogart discovered their mutual experience with Japanese theater.... They saw how masks and transformations were common to Japanese theater and “Pinocchio,” the 1880s novel by Carlo Collodi that spawned countless adaptations, including Disney’s classic animated film. 
“We’re not Kabuki experts, we’re not doing pure, traditional Kabuki,” Bogart says. “We’re Kabuki influenced, Noh influenced, even Butoh theater-influenced, pulling all of these elements in to create the story.” 
So audiences will face a stage backed by sliding screens, not unlike those in a traditional Japanese-style home, that here can be moved to change the scene. Movement and dance and masks will echo Japanese styles. The band on an upper deck of the set will include a skilled player of the shamisen, a traditional three-stringed Japanese instrument. And as for the marine creature in whose belly Pinocchio ends up . . . 
“In the novel, the whale is not a whale, it’s a dogfish. I don’t know how big a dogfish is, but the Disney version turned it into a whale,” Bogart says. “We did some research and found a character, Namazu, in Japanese mythology, which is a giant catfish. It’s so big, it’s controlled by a god, and when the god is not paying attention, Namazu creates earthquakes and tsunamis.” 
You can read the rest of the wonderful write-up of the show and how it was inspired and created HERE
I wish I were able to see this! Unfortunately, I will have to settle for some photos and perusing the many costume designs posted on the Wheelock blog for now, but if you get a chance to see it, do let us know!
Based on the book The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Colladi. 
World premiere of an original adaptation by Steven Bogart and Wendy Lement. 
Influenced by Japanese theatrical traditions, Pinocchio’s adventures are told through mystical creatures, live musicians, and gymnastic choreography, making the transformation of an animated puppet into a real live boy, a magical, dynamic, and deeply moving experience. WFT’s Pinocchio will surprise and delight audiences of all ages. 
Playing January 30th to February 22, 2015
Wheelock Family Theatre is located in Boston, MA, USA.

You can follow Wheelock Theatre on their blog HERE and on their Facebook page HEREand they've included a useful study guide for kids on Collodi and Pinocchio HERE as well.


  1. Interesting. This reminds me of a current New York show, The Woodsman, depicting L F Baum's Tin Man origin story using Bunraku-inspired puppetry. Sort of the opposite tale to Pinnochio in a way. http://www.broadwayworld.com/videoplay.php?colid=905216#.VNCbQy74ZME

  2. When I was a kid, my class went on a field trip to the theater and saw a Japanese-styled version of Sleeping Beauty. So, this kind of reminds me of that.

    As a big fan of Carlo Collodi's book, I have to say that this does look interesting. Though, not interesting enough to drive down to Boston to see it.

  3. Just in case anybody is still looking this up and is interested, The Woodsman play is on again in early 2016: http://www.broadwayworld.com/article/THE-WOODSMAN-Will-Play-New-World-Stages-Starting-in-January-20151118.

    (Also, *Pinocchio!)

  4. I swear I don't work for the show, but again if anyone happens across this old post and is interested, The Woodsman is now available to stream on pay-per-view/subscription service BroadwayHD: https://www.broadwayhd.com/index.php/shows/watch/the_woodsman. I haven't 'bought' it yet, but I probably will at some point soon.

    1. Would you like to write a review and have us post it? If you're interested email us at fairytalenews at gmail. :)