Pascal’s Aquarium

Augustine is a fuzzy blue lobster. Stolen from his home and plunged into the strange, musical, underwater world of Pascal’s Aquarium, Augustine has a lot on his plate. Squealing shrimp, a sassy seahorse, and a salty old catfish are some of the creatures that live in the decorative aquarium at Pascal’s restaurant, and they are more than willing to help Augustine deal with the problems of being blue, furry, kidnapped, lonely in love, and possibly tomorrow’s dinner.

Pascal’s Aquarium is an unexpectedly fun little puppet musical; it stays away from the oft-imitated Avenue Q style of shock puppetry, but still manages to appeal to adult audiences with its twisted “Finding Nemo-like concept and dark humor.

The show’s beautifully written and well sung-ballads manage to forward both the plot and the emotional impact of the play. However, the up-tempo numbers fall a little short; while most are very funny, they lack that elusive foot-tapping catchiness that all truly great musical numbers need (“Junky Turtle”, a song about, well, a junky turtle, gets very, very close, but doesn’t quite hit the mark).

The supporting characters are one of the highlights of this show: Gil, the lisping piranha (Cheryl Fanene Lane), Jean-Christian the pushy French shrimp (Joey Ibanez); and the herd of squeaky, jewel-eyed shrimp (Vanessa Strickland) are hilarious. But my favorite character, by far, was Le’nard the Narrating Catfish (voiced by Neil McFadden); if anything, Le’nard was underused.

This is a rare occurrence in the theater, but, at 60 minutes, I felt the show was not quite long enough. The many characters could have been put to greater use, and a little more length and clarity to Augustine’s arc would have given the end (Spoiler Alert: Someone gets eaten) a greater emotional impact.

Pascal’s Aquarium is, above all, really fun. The puppets are beautifully made and put to good use by the actors, the songs are very good (if not sheer perfection), and there are several laugh-out-loud moments. While it’s not for everyone, if you are in the market for a musical puppet comedy about fish, this one is close to perfect.

A warning to parents: for all the good natured fishy fun in this musical, some of those fish use some strong language, better leave the kids at home for this one.

[Note: The puppets were built by puppeteer Eric Brooks of The Puppet Company of Glen Echo, MD]

Pascal’s Aquarium has 4 more performances at The Mountain – Mt. Vernon Church, 900 Massachusetts Ave, NW, Washington, DC.
Tickets

Comments

  1. loved the show. disclosure – i know most of the people involved in the show, and have been watching it evolve. but, that said, i walked in with a far more critical eye than i do for most shows. sometimes knowing a lot about a show can make you more judgemental. and my judgement is still wildly positive about this show. the singers are breathtaking. vishal makes your heart ache, and jabari ads every thrill and trill imaginable. i was surprised to find i loved the french shrimp and shrimp herd the most, because i thought it was the turtle who would steal my attention.
    i cannot recommend this show enough. it is a great starting place for a show that will hopefully go very far. and i completely agree with the reviewer, i got to the end, and all i wanted was more. more story, more singing, more laughing, and more fun. that says everything,for me.

  2. I couldn’t agree more, Aubri.
    I loved the show as well. It was not only fulfilling to be the puppet designer/builder/ song arranger and lyric co-writer with Danny, but also wonderful to work with the wildly versatile and talented cast of mostly first-time puppeteers to see them expanding from being actors only, to deepening their personal performance abilities. Each performer brought something to their characters that was unexpected, yet authentically appropriate and memorable to the overall story.
    It will be a special memory for me to be at the whirlwind, 2.5 hour tech to hear Vishal sing “One in a Million,” or Cheryl, Katie, Jobari and Vishal sing “On your way to You,” OR the whole cast sing, “Share it With You” together. It was everything I could do to keep from welling up  and it was from those musical moments that I felt the whole experience to be that much more worthwhile and valuable. . .And one that I wanted to see more story, more songs, more message.
    Note to DC Theatre Scene: Original book and lyrics written by Danny Pushkin; Studio recorded music provided by Growroom Productions; Puppets and music built and assembled at the Puppet Co. Playhouse, Glen Echo, MD
     

  3. Oh, and the picture in this article by Susan Downs.

  4. Some of the puppets were very small; if you were not all the way in the front, you would have wondered what they were.  However, overall a clever show.

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