Katie Melby, Pinocchio, Brittany Parker and Me’lissa Smith charm an audience of youngsters and grown-ups with their musical version of “Pinocchio” at the Criterion in Bar Harbor every Thursday at 11 a.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. ISLANDER PHOTO BY NAN LINCOLN

Truth be told! Pinocchio gets real at Criterion!

Here’s something for a rainy day – or a sunny day for that matter, or any day kids and their parents are looking for an hourlong, fun break from all that hiking and biking, picnicking and such in beautiful Acadia National Park.

At the beautiful Criterion Theater on Cottage Street, the Barn Arts Collective crew, along with a variety of puppets – some of them life size – is performing an enchanting musical version of the classic fairy tale “Pinocchio” every Thursday at 11 a.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m.

Not to give anything away, but be prepared for the unexpected right from the start. At a recent performance, the young audience filed into the theater with the help of helmeted ushers who guided them to their seats as if they were small giggly airplanes coming in for a landing.

The excited youngsters, who ranged in age from maybe 2 to 10 years old, chattered laughed and fidgeted in their seats until the full cast appeared in front of the curtain and sang them the rousing opening song “No Strings Attached,” grabbing their attention, which, for the most part, they held on to from the story’s start to its finish.

The captivated kids were treated to a variety of puppetry, live action and special effects, including simple shadow puppets, Japanese bunrako puppets, marionettes and animated, projected images.

Oh, and there are many, many fun songs, ranging from sweet ballads to hip-hop. If a few of the younger kids seemed a bit impatient when Pinocchio’s tale was interrupted by these songs and dances, the adults clearly appreciated the clever lyrics and pleasing tunes, sung with delicious harmonies and accompanied by piano and guitar.

The youngsters were especially engaged when they were invited to sing along or participate in the story by helping Pinocchio mend his naughty ways and think of ways for him to help others.

If some of the original story elements have been changed in this version, all the high points are hit with a series of impressive effects that the cast and crew must have had a blast figuring out. We see Pinocchio’s nose grow when he lies, and we see him turn into a donkey, get transported to the bright lights of “Awesome City,” get swallowed by a marvelous, googly-eyed whale and transformed into a real-ish boy.

The action in this show is nonstop with transitions from, say, live action to puppetry, or from large puppets to shadow or mini-puppets, all made so seamlessly it’s easy for both the kids and their less nimble-brained adults to figure out what’s going on.

Kudos to this energetic and innovative cast consisting of Brittany Parker, Andrew Simon, Me’lissa Smith, Katie Melby and Andrew Lynch, who composed the music and accompanied it.

Tickets for Pinocchio may be purchased at the door or in advance by calling the Criterion Theatre at 288-0829.


Nan Lincoln

Nan Lincoln

The former arts editor at the Bar Harbor Times writes reviews and feature stories for The Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander.

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