Red Branch Theatre Company's 'Pinocchio' comes alive

Children's theater is an entertaining way to impart ethical values. The Red Branch Theatre Company's kid-friendly production of "Pinocchio" nose, er, knows how to make the smallest theatergoers aware of the consequences of lying.

That lesson is conveyed through slapstick, sing-alongs and other bits of silliness relating to the title character's lie-extended nose.

The production also knows that these short spectators tend to have short attention spans, so this intermissionless "Pinocchio" moves fast and doesn't last long. To tell the truth, the 40-minute running time struck this taller spectator as being too brief.

Giving Pinocchio and his pals a few more skits wouldn't hurt, and it'd be nice to linger a tad more over the already-affecting bond between the boy puppet Pinocchio and the old man who made him in his workshop, Geppetto.

This production fortunately is strong where it counts, because Caroline Wolfson embodies Pinocchio's youthful energy and curiosity; and Kathryn Marshall conveys Geppetto's wisdom and warmth. The lead actors ensure that the story retains its moral substance and doesn't slip into just being a live-action cartoon.

Working under director Jennifer Spieler in this simply staged production, Wolfson, Marshall and the other members of an all-female, all-adult cast portray numerous roles so convincingly that one hardly notices that several traditionally male roles are being played by female actors.

When a wooden puppet comes alive, hangs out with an energetic insect named Hickory Cricket (Kristala Pouncy Smart), gets swallowed by a whale and undergoes even more adventures, who's got the time to ponder gender-blind casting?

Playing multiple roles in this theatrical adaptation of "Pinocchio" by Kathryn Schultz Miller are Susan Porter, Tegan Williams, Katelyn McNichol and Kelsey Painter. Dashing down the theater aisles, leading sing-alongs and sprinkling fairy dust, they're constantly interacting with the kids in the audience.

For that matter, they prompt parents and grandparents to sing along too. There were many smiling faces and not a nose bent out of shape.

"Pinocchio" runs through Dec. 16 at Red Branch Theatre Company, 9130-I Red Branch Road in Columbia. Remaining performances are Dec. 14 at 7:30 p.m., Dec. 15 at 2 p.m., and Dec. 16 at 2 p.m. (with a "Santa Sighting" as part of that final performance). Tickets are $12- $15. There's also a $25 "Shop Til You Drop PJ Party" option for the Dec. 14 performance. Call 410-997-9352 or go to

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