The story of “Peter and the Wolf ”—Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev’s program music fairy tale introducing instruments of the orchestra for children—is told effectively by the Puppet Co. with puppetry, music, and limited props in its current production at Glen Echo Park. The story recounts the adventure of Peter, a naive but courageous boy, who wishes to take on a wolf. He ignores the advice of his grandfather not to enter the woods where a vicious wolf dwells. He does so nonetheless and eventually emerges a hero.
…children are exposed to classical music in a delightful way…
In this production, children are exposed to classical music in a delightful way as they are told each character is represented by different instruments—the bird, for example, being represented by a flute. Leitmotifs, or signature music themes, of each character are presented with puppets that are descriptive visible forms of Prokofiev’s musical characters. Further examples are the duck being represented by the oboe, the grandfather by the bassoon (which captures his elderly, halting walk), and the wolf by three ominous French horns. The young boy Peter is portrayed by playful string instruments.
In an especially nice touch, Prokofiev’s Cello Sonata in C Major, Op. 119: II Moderato is played on the speakers before the start of the show, further familiarizing children with Prokofiev’s music. Audience members attending the puppet show were mostly school children, and they had all studied and analyzed the story at school.
Puppeteers who controlled the grandfather puppet brought his character to life as his beard is seen quivering as he snores in his armchair. At other times, the grandfather can be seen warning the bright-eyed boy against the big bad wolf in the forest as he sits in a cozy fairytale style cabin in front of a fireplace. In an atmospheric set of the forest scene, there are silhouetted trees in cool colors which amplify the mystery and eerie chill of the forest. The puppets are also delightful, our favorite being the duck with Russian hat and drooping scarf. The occasional use of Russian phrases lends cultural ambience to the production. The hunters coming to take the wolf is narrated and summarized but not shown, encouraging children to exercise their imaginations.
The talented performers for “Peter and the Wolf” include: Valarie McFatter as Peter and Natasha’s Conscience; Maggie Rocha as Grandfather, Boris the Cat, Jaja the Bird, Natasha the Duck, and the Wolf. This special production marks the beginning of the Puppet Co.’s 40th Anniversary season.
Running: Approximately 45 minutes with no intermission.
“Peter and the Wolf ” runs through February 12, 2023 at The Puppet Co. Playhouse, 7300 MacArthur Blvd, Glen Echo, MD 20812 in historic Glen Echo Park. For more information and tickets, go online. Masks are required inside the theatre.