Mozart’s Magic Flute at The Puppet Company is as engaging and expressive as it gets for full family fun and entertainment. The story is true to the original with the major songs and arias in tact and colorful characters who bring you into the story.
The handsome prince Tamino is lost in a strange land and is nearly killed by a multi-headed scary monster when he is saved by a trio of flying ladies-in-waiting. He befriends another servant and together they are confronted by the Queen of the Night herself who’s beautiful daughter is being held captive by the Lord of the Sun. Or is she? The events are not as linear and direct as they appear on the surface, and Christopher Piper’s modern text keeps the action flowing and real.
Speaking of real, the puppet characters are all animal based, adding yet another layer of fantasy to the experience, with the main character Tamino as a gorgeous brown buck with delicate antlers who rescues the lovely Pamina, an endearing doe. Even the Lord of the Sun is a tall majestic lion with regal movements and sumptuous royal regalia—it all works with charm and grace.
Puppeteers Eric Brooks, Christopher Piper and Mayfield Piper bring the characters to life with caring movements befitting each one, also in step with the music. Some of the sequences were so aligned with the songs to almost warrant choreographer credit, a reflection of the true mastery of the puppeteers. In one scene, for example, sheep enter one by one, each fitting into a tableau as part of the story and then exit with perfect timing.
Master puppeteer Christopher Piper, who opens the show with introductory descriptions of opera, designed the marionettes. Some were just eye-poppingly magical. Just watch the Queen of the Night convert to her scary side in mid-aria while soaring through the air and witness a remarkable transition in puppet theater. The heaving bosom of the servant’s love interest is nearly as transporting as the exquisite projections, that range from text rolling up the screen Star Wars style, to peaceful backdrops of aqua blue rolling meadows, to a large red cupid heart of love at the end.
At one point, the characters even seem to huddle around the crackling flames of a campfire, thanks to lighting design by Dan Brooks. Director and Set Designer Allan Stevens collaborated on the exquisite costumes, and the multi-functional stage design by Stevens with its bridge motif fit all the scenes.
And then there is the music—what is The Magic Flute without, well, the Flute? A robust ensemble taped the music under the musical direction of Clif Harden, who also played the piano, and featured talented flutist Jacqueline Patton. The singers hit all the notes including the high ones with a youthful and fresh zeal and clear articulation to help propel the story keeping the full house in rapt attention. The director and sound engineers recognized the importance of superior equipment since a muffled sound system would have ruined the experience.
The Puppet Company’s rendition of The Magic Flute is a popular telling of the tale with a fresh approach and artistic manner. Plus, it’s loads of fun.
Mozart’s The Magic Flute
Directed by Allan Stevens
Produced by The Puppet Company
Reviewed by Debbie Minter Jackson
Running time: 60 minutes