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‘Toyland’ at The Puppet Co. by Julia L. Exline

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FOUR AND A HALF STARS
The Puppet Co. presents Toyland, a tale about an adventure that brings together Mother Goose and some favorite characters from her famous tales. This production is performed by Christopher Piper and Tony Strowd, with music from the Victor Herbert Operetta, Babes in Toyland, arranged by Eric Brooks.

Little BoPeep has found her sheep in "Toyland," the Puppet Co.'s take on Victor Herbert's operetta, "Babes in Toyland," made accessible to children. Photo courtesy of The Puppet Co.

Little BoPeep has found her sheep in “Toyland,” the Puppet Co.’s take on Victor Herbert’s operetta, “Babes in Toyland.” Photo courtesy of The Puppet Co.

The set, designed by Allan Stevens (who also designed the costumes), shows the cottage-like interior of a toymaker’s workshop, with toys and tools alike displayed on shelves and tabletops. A forest backdrop is cleverly concealed, and brought to attention for appropriate scenes. Performer Christopher Piper looks not unlike Santa Claus as the Toymaker, with a wide beard, dated britches, glasses, and apron. As with all Puppet Co. productions, however, the real majesty is shown in the puppets themselves – specifically marionettes for this production. Credit for the puppets, as well as adaptation, also fall to Piper. The puppets have a handsome artistry about them and are masterfully manipulated by the puppeteers.

The show begins with the Toymaker introducing himself to the audience, becoming fast friends with them through his friendly nature. He leaves for a moment to work on some new toys that he plans on showing the children later in a special display, and when he does, Mr. Barnaby (a marionette whose crooked nose is rivaled only by his even more crooked hat) shows up with his sidekick cat, and they sing about their nasty plan: to capture the Toymaker and steal all of his toys! They flee when they hear the footsteps of the Toymaker’s apprentice, Tom Piper, and Tom and the Toymaker sing a song about the benefits of hard work: “easy is not always best/ hard work masters every test.” Everything is running on schedule for the toy show, and all seems well…until Little Bo Peep arrives in a tizzy, because she has lost her sheep!

Tom Piper ferries a load of toys for shipment to good boys and girls in "Toyland," the Puppet Co.'s take on Victor Herbert's operetta, "Babes in Toyland, Photo courtesy of The Puppet Co.

Tom Piper ferries a load of toys for shipment to good boys and girls in “Toyland,” the Puppet Co.’s take on Victor Herbert’s operetta, “Babes in Toyland, Photo courtesy of The Puppet Co.

Mother Goose arrives and sings a cheerful song about Toyland as a show opener, and then the Toymaker is called onstage…but he is nowhere to be found! Tom Piper now has two very important things to find: the Toymaker and Bo Peep’s sheep, both believed to be somewhere in the ominously named, The Forest of No Return! So begins an adventure for Tom and Bo Peep into The Forest of No Return, and Bo Peep sings about the scariness of the shapes and shadows within it. Bravery is tried, trusts are tested, and new friendships are made. Will they be able to save the Toymaker from Mr. Barnaby, and find Bo Peep’s sheep?

This show is a short one, and perfect for younger children who can grow easily restless, or for parents with a tight schedule. Make an afternoon trip to the family-friendly The Puppet Co. more memorable by attending a performance of Toyland!

Running Time: 40 minutes without an intermission.

Toyland runs through February 10, 2013 at The Puppet Co.—7300 MacArthur Boulevard, in Glen Echo, MD. For tickets, call (301) 634-5380, or order them online.

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