CCT's musical "My Son Pinoccio" opens Thursday at Players

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For more than 50 years the Peoria Park District has given children ages 8 to 18 the chance to learn about theatre while keeping audiences entertained through song and dance.

They do it again this week when the Children's Community Theatre presents "Disney's My Son Pinocchio: Geppettto's Musical Tale" at Peoria Players Theatre. The show opens Thursday with a 7 p.m. curtain, followed by a 7 p.m. show on Friday, with 1:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. shows on Saturday and a 1:30 p.m. finale on Sunday.

Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for students under age 12. They can be purchased at the Glen Oak Pavilion or at www.artspartners.net.

Peggy Breaux is the director and this is her fifth show for the Park District, she said during a recent dress rehearsal.

"We have a lot of fun with the CCT shows and these are shows where the kids learn so much about the process of doing theatre," she said. "The kids and their parents build and paints the sets, they get the props, they do the hair and makeup and help with all aspects of putting on a show.

"It's a great learning experience for them now and for the future. Not just at CCT, either. What they learn here they can take with them to their schools or other community theatres," Breaux said. "They get a lot of training in how to do everything."

Breaux has done much community theatre in the Peoria area and said she never experiences the kind of volunteer efforts as she does with the CCT shows. "The families are committed to the project and we get a lot of volunteer help, which we need," she said.

While the book for the show calls for a cast of 11 to 20, Breaux has put 52 children in her cast of "Disney's My Son Pinocchio" out of more than 90 who auditioned. Breaux said the show, as with most CCT plays, attracted kids from throughout central Illinois to the auditions. "We have kids from all over the region who are having fun while learning," she said.

"Disney's My Son Pinocchio" retells the classic story of Pinocchio, the wooden puppet brought to life by his maker and father, Geppetto, from the perspective of Geppetto himself.

Grammy Award winner Stephen Schwartz, who wrote the music for "Wicked" and "Godspell" and several other Broadway shows, added original songs to the show but maintained the well-known songs "When You Wish Upon a Star" and "I've Got No Strings" from the 1940 film. The book for the musical was written by David Stern.

Most of the characters are familiar, including Pinocchio, Geppetto, the Blue Fairy and Stromboli.

"These are characters everybody knows from the original story, so the kids have enjoyed getting to play the characters on stage," Breaux said

Drew Conly, whose community theatre pedigree includes his grandfather Mike Dentino, plays the role of Pinocchio, while Jon Bateman portrays Geppetto. Barbara Bryant is the Blue Fairy, Justin Leuba portrays Stromboli and Simeon Abbey is Buonrazzo.

In the Disney DVD TV version of "My Son Pinocchio" Drew Carey portrayed Geppetto and Julia Louis-Dreyfus was the Blue Fairy.

In production notes about the show Schwartz has written that he believes it is entertaining "while at the same time dealing with such important themes as individuality, self-esteem and the relation of parents and children."

Paul Gordon is editor of The Peorian. He can be reached at 692-7880 or editor@thepeorian.com

About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).