My Son Pinocchio Jr by Stephen Schwartz & David Stern. Southwark Playhouse, London SE1 to 14 August, 2**. William Russell

My Son Pinocchio Jr
Music by Stephen Schwartz Book by David Stern.
Southwark Playhouse, the Little, 77-85 Newington Causeway, London SE1 6BD to 14 August 2019.
Tues-Sat 7pm. Sun 2pm & 5pm. Mat Tues & Sat 3pm.
Runs 60 mins No interval.

Tickets: 020 7407 0234.
Reviuew: William Russell 1 August.

The British Theatre Academy has chosen this dismal show by Stephen Scwartz for its annual show for it younger performers who deliver a brisk, energetic show. The stars are for the material which adds nothing to the Disney cartoon except for a few songs and a maudlin plot about Gepetto discovering what it means to be a father and revealing the Blue Fairy to have been a stuck up, self opinionated meddler and omits all the good characters and the good bits. One can see why they chose it because there are lots of opportunities for the younger pupils – the Academy offers training to performers under the age of 23 at its weekly classes – display their skills, and these are duly taken. There are different casts at each performance and there was no faulting the energy and commitment of the one on press night. But the story line is a mish mash of bits of the film. Gepetto decides Pinocchio is not the son he wanted and asks the Blue Fairy to do something about it. Pinocchio doesn’t think much of Gepetto, Stromboli the showman wants the puppet boy as his star turn, the Blue Fairy is miffed, a mad scientist who creates perfect children to order appears, which is extremely creepy when you think about it. Both Gepetto and Pinocchio get swallowed by the whale, escaping by making it sneeze which it does when someone tells a lie. Nobody’s nose grows long, there is no cricket and, worst of all, no J Worthington Fowlfellow.
Scwhartz’s songs are nothing to write home about, let alone hum in the bath, but at least When You Wish Upon a Star and I’ve Got Strings survive from the film. The cast I saw were better than their material and the chances are all the others will be the same. Director Seimi Campbell has kept things moving briskly although there is some awkward placing of characters – at one point the Blue Fairy and assorted child fairies managed to obscure my view for far too long by sitting right in front of me – and some jolly, bouncy choreography has been devised by Holly Hughes. So plaudits for the performers, toonumerous to mention and as nobody said who the ones we saw were they cannot be listed. They may have done it before, although I did not see it. That said, the best thing to do would be to choose a better showcase next time for these budding talents.
Director: Seimi Campbell.
Choreographer: Holly Hughes.
Musical Director: Lauren Ronan.
Designer: Gregor Donnelly.
Lighting Designer: Andrew Exeter.
Sound Designer: Andrew Johnson.

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