The Glendale Centre Theatre's goal has always been to produce quality plays with a "Gee" rating. As in "Gee whiz. Gosh darn. That was a pretty good show, honey." Believe it or don't, that's the kind of thing you'll hear the grown-ups saying in the lobby at the 8 p.m shows.
So there's no age-appropriate issue for parents who want to bring the older kids along at night, unless someone forgot to take a nap. When it comes to the kids bringing the parents along, the reverse is not always true. Often, the inspired zaniness of the theater's Saturday morning kids' show can leave parents rolling in the aisles while their astonished toddlers wonder what the heck was so funny.
The script for this particular "Pinocchio," however, is aimed solidly at the heart of the 3- to 8-year-old crowd, with very little wiggle room for the more sophisticated theater-goer. But make no mistake about it. The littlest ones will still be enchanted. Pinocchio, as everyone knows, was the answer to lonely Gepetto's prayers — someone to talk to, someone to care for, whether or not tapping Pinocchio's forehead is literally knocking on wood.
It seems unfair that Pinocchio, unlike other little boys, has to earn his place in humanity. Even real children find it impossible to be "good, kind, honest and loving" all the time. But that's the deal Pinocchio has to strike with Fairy Blue if he wants that awful hollow tapping sound to stop whenever someone decides to give him a nuggie.
Luckily, Pinocchio is one little (almost) boy who can learn from his mistakes. On the plus side in this production are the sparkle and enthusiasm of the mostly younger cast. Fifth-grader Elan A. Farfias is a delight as Pinocchio, singing, dancing and generally shining under Pinocchio's 4-inch-long nose and big blue hat.
Total pro Larrs Jackson anchors the show with his natural and touching performance as kindly old Gepetto, and Tiffany Labarbera clearly delights in her overbearing nastiness as mean Mama Lasagna.
Also strong is Tracy McBurnett as Fairy Blue, reminiscent of the wonderful Joan Cusack, although the script leaves her with little to do besides acting annoyed by frequent calls for help from Pinocchio and his faithful dog Smudge (Samantha Claire). Meanwhile, the script is an inconsistent mix — a half dozen accents and musical styles, sprinkled with modern-day references, and original songs that may or may not help the story along.
Occasionally, the humor rises to the level of the subtle and sublime — as when the dancing toys in the Land of Candy and Toys are told "Thank you, Toys. You may take a candy break now." Or as when Fairy Blue gives a silent homage to Dr. Strangelove. Production values — costumes by Angela Wood, choreography by Paul Reid, and uncredited set and sound design — are always solid.
Infobox What: "Pinocchio," a children's musical based on the classic story, written by Tad Allyn Doyle, based on the story by Carlos CollodiWhen: 11 a.m. Saturdays through June 26Where: The Glendale Centre Theatre, 324 N. Orange St.Tickets: Children younger than 12: $11.50, adults $13, VIP Reserved Seating $20Contact: (818) 244-8481 or www.glendale centretheatre.com