Saturday, July 23, 2011

Cool Fun at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre

Originally Posted on The Chicago Moms blog

We always enjoy the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. When we were invited to review the new CST Family production of Pinocchio, we immediately grabbed four tickets. When the lights went down, I spent the first few minutes admiring the actors and set. The story we all know has been reimagined with original songs and music, and a mix of live actors and puppets.

The Chicago Shakespeare Theater doesn’t look at children’s theater as something to fill summer months. The company views children’s theater as an opportunity to introduce the magic of live performance to a new audience. We’ve attended several children’s shows and the high-quality, engaging stories did help us introduce our daughters’ to the magic of live theater. Now when we say we’re headed to a theater production, our girls are excited.

Pinocchio continues the tradition. The actors have impressive backgrounds, which show in the quality of the acting and singing. The set is simple, but effective. The puppets are an interesting addition to the story. The real fun comes during the show when the actors leave the stage. All good family productions recognize that a large part of audience has a limited attention span. As the actors move through the theater, the audience follows them. There’s an interactive piece that gets everyone laughing and out of their seats, although I won’t spoil the surprise.

After the show several actors autographed the programs. I spent some time admiring the view from the lobby windows. One of the things I adore about the Chicago Shakespeare Theater is the space. Both in the performance spaces and the lobby are beautiful. We’re normally at the theater at night, so it’s a treat to stare out the windows during the day. You can see what’s happening on Navy Pier and the beautiful Chicago skyline.

Even the traditional showbill is designed with children in mind. On the drive home, our girls enjoyed the “Bringing Pinocchio Home” section. They asked each other the questions designed to help them recount the performance, did the crossword puzzle and colored the ocean scene. It’s a fun way to keep the magic going on the drive home. Of course, it kept our girls busy, so we really appreciated it.

Pinocchio is recommended for children from ages 4 – 8. Our girls are nearly 8, so I worried a bit that they were too old for the show. The audience was filled with children slightly younger and older than the recommended age group. Everyone enjoyed the show, expecially our daughters.

The weather forecast is hot and humid for much of July. Now’s the time to take advantage of a great summer tradition and visit the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. With the discounted parking, you can enjoy Navy Pier before or after the show for a complete adventure. It’s cool, affordable fun for the whole family.

**In case you missed it, our family did receive free review tickets. The opinions are entirely my own and consistent with my opinion of shows we’ve paid for at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater