Adventure Theatre’s U.S. premiere of The Red Balloon is a twirling and artful rendition with all of the floating and fluttery dips of the magical “Le Ballon Rouge.” With a light, whimsical touch, director Roberta Gasbarre establishes the atmosphere and tone of a darling French community complete with characters in full Parisian attire, (including French attitude), alley ways and street lamps which are lit one by one in the opening sequence.
The production engages the audience from the very beginning and has an easygoing and natural flow throughout, evidence of Gasbarre’s handiwork. She sets up the natural ebb and flow of everyday life for little Pascal, played adoringly by Josh Sticklin. The opening song and skit capture the monotony of this quiet and lonely little school boy singing “It’s All the Same.” Pascal is barely noticed or regarded in his household and in school. He wishes ardently for a friend, or anything different in his ho-hum life. Needless to say, everything changes when he finds and befriends a red balloon.
The balloon takes on a life of its own, and soon a bond develops where “le ballon rouge” brings adventure and love to Pascal as he finds himself tending to it with care. Master puppeteer Daniel Mori brings the bright red balloon to life as it gracefully dips and twirls, disrupting the boring routine of Pascal’s life, getting him into mischief while bringing him laughter and joy. In Mori’s capable hands, the balloon helps Pascal make friends and even brings him more to the attention and loving eyes of his parents, especially his Mom played nicely by Jessica Aimone.
The entire production team make this a marvel of a show. Costume designer Emma Jaster established fun characters throughout, and especially in one brief sequence with everybody standing and waiting for the bus, each in black and white attire, from high Parisian fashion to a nun in full habit. It was a delightful picture moment and contributed to the show’s stylish tone. Collin K. Bills did double duty as lighting and scenic designer, depicting the quaint backstreets of Paris with cobblestones extending into the hallways bringing the audience into the scene. Musical direction and orchestrations by Wayne Chadwick added a special flair with the French music wafting along the set and sound design by Matt Nielson for the balloon’s antics.
The story is a classic and the movie version won an Oscar for ‘Best Original Screenplay,” in 1961, so it’s got some keeping power. With director Gasbarre at the helm of this premiere, the tender moments feel genuine, and the ending pulls on heartstrings enough to even evoke a tiny tear along with a smile.
Still think you need to bring a kid as a qualifier to enjoy the show? Not hardly. Adventure Theater continues to bring in high caliber performers and directors. This July, Holly Twyford is in If You Give a Pig a Pancake directed by Jerry Whiddon—miss That if you dare!
The Red Balloon
Based on the film and book by Albert Lamorisse “Le Ballon Rouge”
Adapted for the stage by Anthony Clarke
Directed by Roberta Gasbarre
Produced by Adventure Theatre
Reviewed by Debbie Minter Jackson
The Red Balloon runs through June 13, 2010.
For Details, Directions and Tickets, click here.