Combine the majestic music of Seigei Prokofiev with a master puppeteer and a timeless story for a winning combination of Peter and the Wolf currently playing at The Puppet Company.
The music is such a significant part of the story that in his introductory remarks and prologue, puppeteer Christopher Piper warms up the audience by playing snippets of the orchestra identifying each character with a musical interlude or instrument. Inviting youngsters to shout out their answers in a boisterous interchange can be tricky since you might get too much of a good thing. But Piper is seasoned enough to handle any and all excited responses and he soon has the audience as much in the palm of his hand as his ingeniously designed puppets.
What brings the story to life is the wry sense of character that Piper imbues in each puppet he touches, along with enabling their realistic and signature movements for a magical treat that has won the company national acclaim. His artistry is particularly evident in this production since he is solo performing all the voices, acting out all characters and interpretive narration. Watching Piper hover above the simple set manipulating the marionettes is an experience onto itself.
Puppetry also exercises the good ‘ole imagination instead of having everything handed to the viewer with increasingly sophisticated technology. Interestingly, Piper’s persona quickly fades into the background as the puppets draw us into their lives and stories, starting with Peter and his Grandpa in the simple cottage with their tabby cat.
The interchange is precious as Peter nudges his grandfather who snoozes peacefully in his high-backed chair. One can almost feel the aches and pains as Grandpa labors to hoist himself up, move around the cabin, even warm his bottom at the fireplace, to the children’s delight. Peter asks incessantly about the wolf whose howls pierce the chilly night air. No matter how many times he is warned to stay away, Peter seems oblivious to the obvious danger, so off he goes.
For the next scene, Piper’s coaching has helped prep the audience, so the fluttering piccolo music introduces the tweeting bird perfectly who pokes along looking for worms and soars effortlessly when nearly pounced by the cat. Peter’s most trusted companion is, of all things, a beautiful emerald colored smart-mouthed duck Natasha, who would rather waddle anywhere but towards imminent danger but being true to her conscience, off she goes in search of Peter.
The long awaited big bad wolf makes a delicious entrance, strutting like the king of the forest, accompanied by timpani and the bellowing French horn. With a long sinister snout and wing-tipped eyes, the wolf sports a gorgeous bushy tail that Piper swooshes with glee, and has the wolf smacks his lips at the prospects of a tasty meal, starting with a tender duck appetizer. One could hear a pin-drop as the audience sits transfixed watching Peter struggle to climb a tree escaping the snarling wolf and ultimate doom. The ingenuity of the puppetry keeps the characters’ fates close to our hearts.
The handiwork of lighting designer Dan Brooks creates the warm hearth with burning embers in the fireplace and the soft glow of a full moon casting quiet shadows. As in previous productions, the husband and wife team Piper duo, Christopher and Mayfield, designed the marionettes and wonderful costumes.
The weekend’s ice storm didn’t stop truly adventurous youngsters (and their parents) from being transported by this timeless tale shared via the magic of puppetry. Peter and the Wolf at The Puppet Company provides entertaining moments of caring and fun adventure wrapped in a beloved classical score for the entire family.
Peter and the Wolf
Based on the Russian folktale, with music by Seigei Prokofiev
Produced by The Puppet Company
Reviewed by Debbie MinterJackson
Running time: 40 minutes with no intermission