Review: A Wondrous ‘Pinocchio’ With That ‘Lion King’ Magic

In other words, anyone who is either below the age of 12 or who ever had a childhood (and I know of no exceptions) is pretty much guaranteed to identify with this production’s title character.

Since it opened, “Pinocchio” has divided critics. Some reviewers have found the show too sinister and sophisticated for theatergoing tykes. But for me this show feels no darker — and certainly no less accessible — than the hit musical “Matilda” (adapted from Roald Dahl’s children’s novel) or the Broadway-bound London blockbuster “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.”

As it happens, those formidable shows figure in the résumés of several of the creators of “Pinocchio.” Mr. Tiffany staged “Harry Potter,” and he has brought along his collaborator on that production, Steven Hoggett, as movement director here. The Disney-tweaking script, which incorporates elements from the 1883 Italian novel (by Collodi) that inspired the movie, is by Dennis Kelly, who did the book for “Matilda.”

Mr. Kelly well understands that childhood innocence is neither as sweet nor as simple as sentimentalists would like to believe. But his “Pinocchio” is less didactic and censorious than the film and the novel. It’s not so much proper behavior that our renegade puppet has to learn as it is learning to feel the pain of others.

Hewed from an enchanted block of wood by the lonely old widower Geppetto, our Pinocchio is a creature of unedited appetite and zero empathy. He is ravenous — for food, for experience, for the acceptance of his peers — and he scarcely thinks about the solicitous father who dotes upon him.

Photo

Mr. Idris-Roberts with Audrey Brisson, who portrays Jiminy Cricket.

Credit
Manuel Harlan

As in the Disney film, Pinocchio is endowed with a chirping conscience in the form of a sidekick insect. That’s Jiminy Cricket, who has undergone a gender change and is charmingly voiced by Audrey Brisson, a young alumna of Cirque du Soleil. Jiminy, too, has a puppet avatar, a shiny green creature somewhat bigger than a breadbox. (The marvelous puppetry director — and codesigner, with Mr. Crowley — is Toby Olié.)

The wily voice of temptation, the Fox, is suavely portrayed (sans artificial alter-ego) by David Langham, who wears cunning elevator boots, an immense tail and a long ombré coat that fashionistas…

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