Actor Steve Bernasconi smiles broadly when he talks about his casting as toymaker Geppetto in the Newcastle Young People’s Theatre production of Pinocchio, an adaptation of the classic children’s novel.
Geppetto constructs a wooden boy marionette and wishes that it would come alive, as he’d love to have a son. And when a Blue Fairy does indeed give life to Pinocchio the toymaker and his potential son have amazing adventures.
Steve Bernasconi’s real-life 11-year-old son, James, plays opposite him as Pinocchio
“It’s good fun and quite enjoyable,” Steve says about their casting. “The emotion can be very natural.”
The two older sisters of James are also among the 61 predominantly young actors who are in two alternating casts for the show’s season at the YPT’s Hamilton theatre from July 9 to August 18.
The other cast’s Geppetto, Jean Stora, is also an adult, and his daughter, Eva, 10, plays Hiccup, a cat who is the wordless offsider of a villainous fox, Ignatius, who causes problems for Pinocchio and others. As Stora notes, his character and Eva’s don’t come together in the story. But he has been impressed by her performance in a very different role. As her character’s name suggests, Hiccup does just that, many times in the story. “She can hiccup in 30 different ways,” he said.
The talents of the young people auditioning were so good that the show’s production team, including director-cum-musical director, Michael Nolan, and choreographer Casey Nolan, cast three Pinocchios. The others are Jack Van Esveld and Nikolai Sneddon-Saanum.
Pinocchio has been one of YPT’s most popular works with people of all ages since it was adapted from Carlo Collodi’s novel by company co-founder William Ford and premiered in the mid-1950s. The show includes nine bright songs by another YPT stalwart, Glenda Price. And watchers are invariably in awe of how the staging team creates effects such as Pinocchio’s wooden nose lengthening as the Blue Fairy tries to stop him from telling lies, and how he is swallowed by a whale, Gargantuan, while trying to rescue Geppetto from a stormy sea. The other many colourful characters, some brought alive through puppetry, include a cricket called Claudius, who is appointed by the Blue Fairy to be Pinocchio’s conscience and a puppeteer who kidnaps Pinocchio.
Pinocchio has performances daily at 11am from Monday, July 9, to Friday, July 13, plus an opening night show on Wednesday, July 11, at 7pm. There are 2pm Saturday matinees from July 14 to August 18, 7pm Saturday shows on July 14 and August 18, and 2pm Sunday shows each Sunday. Tickets: $19, $23 on opening night (includes supper). Bookings: firstname.lastname@example.org.
THERE is a good variety of one and two night shows in and around Newcastle this weekend.
The Civic Theatre has Beyond the Barricade, which takes its title from the musical Les Miserables, on Friday at 8pm. The show features some of the leads from the long-running London production of Les Mis, presenting with band accompaniment hits from that and other popular musicals, among them West Side Story, Chicago, Evita and Wicked. They have been presenting this compilation through Britain and Europe for 16 years, and are now touring Australia. Tickets: $65 to $75.
Prada’s Priscillas, an all-male revue, is at Cessnock Performing Arts Centre on Saturday, at 8pm. The work, featuring Prada Clutch and her “girls”, shows how drag queens became popular performers, from the 1970s Kings Cross show Les Girls, via the 1990s Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, to today. Flanked by gorgeous men, the girls, in dazzling costumes, present, among other numbers, Priscilla hits including I Will Survive and Shake Your Groove Thing. Tickets: $55 to $65.
Drench and Launders, has been an annual hit since 2014 for Newcastle’s Maureen O’Brien and Stevi Cannon, with a lively mix of songs, comedy and video segments, as it sends up TV shows such as French and Saunders, and things happening around us. This year’s staging, subtitled The Annual Outing, includes “special guests” Kitty Katz and The Corduroy Thinker. It can be seen on Saturday at 2pm at The Dungeon, Adamstown Uniting Church ($25), and Sunday at 4pm at the Royal Exchange, Newcastle ($20). email@example.com.