Pinocchio panto has real pulling power

Pinocchio by Nigel Virley, presented by the Co-op Juniors, Regent Theatre Ipswich until January 3 2004CELEBRATE good times, come on. That's what the Co-op Juniors sing in the dazzling disco finale to their show, and it is an invitation you just cannot refuse.

Pinocchio by Nigel Virley, presented by the Co-op Juniors, Regent Theatre Ipswich until January 3 2004

CELEBRATE good times, come on.

That's what the Co-op Juniors sing in the dazzling disco finale to their show, and it is an invitation you just cannot refuse. Not when you have seen such a spectacular re-telling of the tale of the little wooden puppet who wanted to become a real boy.

All the elements of the well-known story are there - the kindly wood-carver, Geppetto, the beautiful Blue Fairy, the nefarious fox and cunning cat, Stromboli's puppet show, the humungous whale, even the growing of Pinocchio's nose when he tells a lie.


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But the Juniors, thanks to Nigel Virley's nifty script and joint directors Jeannie Ingram's and Pauline Walker's eye, have added their own ingredients to produce a magical show that will send you into the December night with a Christmassy glow.

New young stars Jack Brett as Pinocchio shows real puppet-power and Gabrielle Pemberton as Jiminy Cricket bowled us over.

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Tony Gomez is an excellent over the top villain as Stromboli, aided and abetted by Laura Lucock and Bridie Rowe, relishing their roles as the mercenary Fox and Cat. Megan Stobo makes a regal Blue Fairy and Thomas Haigh is a delight as the accident prone school ma'am Olive Witherspoon, who should never be allowed near anything with wheels - during the show, she manages to crash several bikes, a scooter and a runaway dodgem car. Clare Goad is a melodramatic Carlotta, Stromboli's wife and David Love has comic flair as Sergeant Golightly.

Visually the show is a real feast - with stunning lighting and special effects, including a sea-green and shell pink underwater scene - you actually see Pinocchio sink to the bottom of the ocean - but it's the dancing, of course, that's the company's reputation has been built on.

This year's routines, staged by choreographer Kerry Sayer, though fewer than in the past - the show lasts just two and a half hours including the interval - are superb, from the around-the-world puppet show featuring leaping Cossacks, Bollywood dancers and skirt waving can-can dancers, to the brilliant UV tap sequence in the train station, and the beautiful underwater ballet. And what professional company could boast no less than sixteen glamorous kick line dancers? Wonderful - and that's no lie.

James Hayward

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