Puppet shows always seem to tickle my fancy. The Great Dinosaur Mystery presented by the Puppet Co. Playhouse is no different. It’s a fun-filled puppet show sprinkled with song and dance and is a sure treat for children and adults alike.
This show is geared towards the little ones, Pre-K to Grade 4 to be exact. When I walk into the small, but cozy theatre, there are about 80 anxious children waiting for the show to begin, their parents hushing their curious antics and attempting to keep them still until the show begins. Some children sit on a carpeted floor while others are beside their parents on benches surrounding the theatre. Being part of an interactive show with nearly a hundred children did not unnerve me as much as I thought it would. They were excited and eager for the show to begin. And so was I.
Actress Michele Valeri, who portrays Dr. Vander Plastercaster, hits the stage with a winning smile and asks the waiting children, “Who likes dinosaurs?” Nearly all of them scream, “MMMEEEE!!!!” And so it begins: the quest to solve dinosaur mystery. Dr. Plastercaster is set to give the audience a tour of the dinosaur exhibit when she finds a mysterious box. Detective Joe Kafootsie, Special Forces: Strange Phenomena Detail (Steve Little) has found a giant shoe he thinks belongs to a dinosaur. After Dr. Plastercaster completes a quirky spell that involves kissing a fossil, dinosaurs appear with messages from Tootsie. The messages are vague and Dr. Plastercaster and Detective Kafootsie have no idea who Tootsie is. Together they must solve the mystery and get the shoe back to its rightful owner.
The show is a mixture of song and dance with meaningful, educational dialogue about dinosaurs. The eager children’s eyes light up when Dr. Plastercaster and Detective Kafootsie break into a guitar infused tunes while a dinosaur accompanies. Numbers such as “Dinosaurs are Forever,” “I’m a Detective, Too” and “He’s a Bonehead” provide the audience with a way to sing along without losing sight of the purpose of the show: to educate in a fun and engaging way.
The set is simple but effective. Oversized boxes stamped with “fragile,” and “do not open” in black, bold letters line the corners of the stage. On the other side of the stage is a pair of file cabinets that contain, I assumed, relatable information beneficial to Dr. Plastercaster and her life work. I would expect that designing costumes and props for dinosaurs is no easy feat. The end result is amazing, to say the least. Tootsie’s shoe, for example, when first shown to the audience, gets shocked oohs and aahs simply because it looks like a baby shoe expanded 10 times over. The dinosaur costumes come complete with gigantic cowboy boots on one and pearls and tap shoes on another. Ingrid Crepeau, who portrays all of the dinosaurs, is a masterful puppeteer. She takes in the roles of thedinosaurs and makes them her own, with variations for each. Mama Maiasaura, for example is a matriarchal dinosaur, one who speaks with an Italian accent. Another, Dolly Dimetodon speaks Cajun French. Diversity is sprinkled throughout this production, but Tootsie the tap dancing dinosaur is surely one of the highlights of the show. She drags herself out of one Dr. Plastercaster’s “fragile” boxes donning a set of pearls around her neck and enormous tap shoes on her feet. She breaks into song and dance, ecstatic that she has located her missing shoe. It’s really quite fascinating to see a tap dancing dinosaur, yet another reason to catch this show before it leaves the D.C. metropolitan area.
In an age where it seems children are growing up way before parents expect them to, it’s refreshing to see that they are still pleased by the simplest of things. Take yours or a friend’s to see The Great Dinosaur Mystery. You or the children will not be disappointed.
The Great Dinosaur Mystery is presented by the Puppet Co. Playhouse and produced by DinoRock Productions. The show runs from June 9-July 17, 2011. Show times are Thursdays and Fridays @ 10 & 11:30 a.m. and Saturdays and Sundays @ 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. The June 26th performance will be American Sign Language interpreted. Tickets are $10 for adults and children. Group rates are available. For tickets and more information call 301-634-5380 or visit www.thepuppetco.org. Running time is 50 minutes.