If you’re not a classical music fan, you may think you’re not familiar with the suite of songs “Carnival of the Animals” by Camille Saint-Saens, but the adorable conceptualization of the music will show you otherwise. Several of the tunes are so familiar you’ll realize- oh, so that’s where that came from. Brought to life in a montage of a children’s story makes them that much sweeter.
Bilingual narrator (English and Spanish) Christian Beltran begins telling the composer’s tale of when a tow-haired, bright-eyed, life-size Nicky takes over and insists on practicing his scales on a piano instead of taking a nap as directed.
While the music is an exquisite recording from a symphony orchestra, Nicky’s rendition in form and posture would make a music teacher cringe and take for cover while everyone else squeals with delight. The performance is actually the artistic handiwork of Bob Brown and Christopher Piper in full-bodied black silhouette cover including their heads. Nicky is so large that each puppeteer steers one of the hands. Before long, the puppeteers recede into the viewer’s background and Nicky takes on life and personality. Without saying a word, he answers questions, points to objects, scratches his large head when stumped, and makes it crystal clear he does not what to go to bed.
But nap time awaits and when he finally snuggles up with his toy lion, more magic ensues as the narrator describes how the musical passages distinctively represent each animal.
Carnival of the Animals
Closes October 7, 2012
The Puppet Co.
7300 MacArthur Blvd.
Glen Echo, MD 20812
40 minutes with no intermission
Fridays thru Sundays
The majestic lion’s music is unmistakable as he enters with a glorious mane surrounding his full scale head. After he exits, the other animals traipse in one by one, and with the narrator’s gentle bilingual coaching, we can recognize the musical flair for each one.
Each puppet is so distinctive that one can expect the unexpected, starting with the slow and steady turtle that suddenly stretches wide out of her shell and blossoms into a full-bodied performer. After a chicken and a frog make fun-filled appearances, Nicky’s bed wonderfully transforms into a stomping elephant complete with trunk! Soft adagio strings usher in a beautiful swan who performs a lovely Swan Lake-style solo on ice. Next, with the narrator’s hint that we’ll hear gurgling and bubbling water sounds, out swim a school of fish glowing iridescently in the dark—followed by the snappy jaws of a hungry shark. Will they become shark food? The music tells all as they scurry away and venture back and forth delighting the audience.
When the last animal has exited, Nicky begins to slowly awaken and move about, and I’ll be darned but he actually looked groggy. Once again, the magic of excellent puppetry and showmanship is at work at the Puppet Company, this time accompanied by a classical musical favorite sprinkled with Spanish phrases.
Carnival of the Animals, featuring Christian Beltram and Bob Brown’s Puppets, presented by The Puppet Co. Reviewed by Debbie Jackson.