Author: Suzanne Jaszcz
The holidays are in full swing and with that comes a host of merry making activities to be enjoyed with friends and family. One such festive outlet is the New Phoenix Theatre production of Pinocchio. The story follows the adventures of a magical wooden puppet that longs to be a human boy. This particular production is based on the original story of Pinocchio not the Disney version. There is no Jiminy Cricket in this show instead you get to meet characters like Talking Cricket (played by Mary Moebius) and a host of other colorful characters. The show utilizes an assortment of puppets to help tell the story.
The New Phoenix is in its 21st year and anyone who has ever entered this theatre knows what a warm and enchanting place it is. Owner and Executive Director Richard Lambert has created one of the most unique theatre spaces in all of Buffalo. The walls are adorned with theatrical props, posters, whimsical antiques and a plethora of headshots of just about every actor who has graced their stage in the last two decades.
In fact, it was the theatre space itself that inspired Richard to do this production. As he explained it, one day he was looking around at all the puppets that were hanging throughout the building (that had been used in past productions) and thought what a shame for them to have only been used once and never to be seen again. He started to think of ways that he could incorporate or repurpose some of these puppets into a new show so that they could be enjoyed again by the public. He reached out to famed local puppeteers Michele Costa and Franklin LaVoie to set things in motion. The story of Pinocchio seemed like the perfect vehicle for reusing these puppets.
Lamberts production offers a unique twist on a classic fairy tale having it take place in a post-apocalyptic war torn Buffalo. A group of refugee actors wander into an old puppet theatre on the west side of Buffalo looking for a safe place to sleep for the night. It’s here that they meet the theatre owner Geppetto (played by Todd Fuller) who provides a little bit of escapism to the haggard actors by telling them the story of Pinocchio (played by Leonard Ziolkowski).
Soon the refugees find themselves forgetting about their troubles and getting lost in the story telling as they begin participating in the fun. The show also features live string accompaniment to help set the mood and tempo of the show.
The play runs on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at 8 pm with one matinée on Saturday December 10th at 2pm. The show is family friendly and open to all ages. For ticket information please click here. In honor of the holiday season the theatre will also be accepting donations on behalf of the International Institute of Buffalo, which is an organization that helps refugees acclimate to their new lives in WNY. Come and experience the magic that is the New Phoenix Theatre during the holidays!