I guess I liked Oliver the Octopus best, with his W. C. Fields nasal twang, straw hat, bow tie and cane.
But then there was the greedy puppeteer Frabonnini and his nasty laugh and bouffant eyebrows that ballooned in gusts of emotion.Villains in fairy tales always have seemed more real to me than the good fairies. That is an observation and not a philosophical" statement.
Oliver the Octopus and Frabonnini are two of the puppets in "Pinocchio," the musical with life-sized marionettes, which will be on the stage at the Warner Theater through Sunday.
On its third trip to Washington, "Pinocchio" still is charming the youngsters with its fetching marionettes, catchy tunes and eye-catching visual effects in such places as the Enchanted Forest and, in a "Jaws" sequence, the belly of the Great Carnivorous Catfish.
"It's more fun that watching cartoons on TV at home, but the food is farther away," said a munching 6-year-old in the next seat. "I like Coco the Dog. He's a beagle."
The classic fairy tale of "Pinocchio," the puppet boy with the long nose, survives only as the story thread to string together the lively marionette song-and-dance acts in the musical.
There are 102 marionettes maneuvered on 7,000 to 10,000 feet of string by 10 puppeteers standing on a 16-foot-high scaffold behind the stage.
This information is for the curious young chap in front who kept turning around to ask: "How do they do that?"
The first act, with its exposition of the fairy-tale story about the old and lonely puppet-maker and the good fairy who brings Pinochio to life, had some of the youngsters shifting in their seats.
But the visual effects of the second act settled them down with ooohs, aahs and gasps.
Pinocchio, fleeing the wicked Frabonnini, is lost in the Enchanted Forest, where trees walk and talk. Then come the Wolligogs with a savage dance in blinking lights, and heads that jump off their necks in the final rite.
In the underwater sequence, Pinocchio and Coco must rescue Papa Geppetto from the belly of a great catfish with huge shining eyes.
The tunes are catchy and servicable enough to move the story along, if not that memorable. One problem is the recording, which if well-coordinated with the action doesn't allow any pacing on stage.
For adults, the kids in the audience are half the show. The only problem for an adult is to survive the intermission, when the youngsters are released from the seats to head for the snack bar and restrooms.