On Saturday, we delighted in the Puppet Co’s “Carnival of the Animals” – the first show performed in English and Spanish at the theater in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month. The 40-minute show alternates between English and Spanish seamlessly as life-sized, brightly colored puppets delight children. on stage. The play opens with the main character, Nicholas, frustrated with piano practice and instead he opts for a nap. During his nap time, the stuffed animals in his room come to life while the music plays through his radio.
Fourteen animals in total appear throughout the play, performed in the bunraku-style puppet show, which is a Japanese term for black theater, in which the audience cannot see the puppeteers manipulating the life-size puppets. The two pupeteers are dressed in black, including black face masks, and initially me and Mr. Wired Momma were a little distracted by it – but then we quickly forgot they were even there. In classic kid form, my kids didn’t even seem to notice they were there, which clearly is the point.
Actor Christian Beltran narrates the show and talks the kids through the different music styles and how that music matches the kind of animal puppet coming to life on stage. I loved the educational component of this show from Puppet Co, not just in the alternating languages but also the teachable moments in learning about music, speed, pitch and thinking creatively about how that sound mimics the movement of the animals. Hands down, my favorite puppet was the turtle who transforms into a graceful ballerina. The youngest Wired Momma’ette adored her the most as well. I also thought the neon fish were really cool. Beltran points out to the kids that they can learn what is being said by music and encourages them to listen for certain cues, like the clarinet and strings, to express the movement of the fish.
At just under 40 minutes, this show is the perfect length even for little ones. My almost 4-year-old remained seated at the front next to her older sister and didn’t even look for us once during the entire show, which says a lot. The variation of animals and puppet styles, I think, helps keeps their attention because everyone wants to know who will come on stage next.
Mr. Wired Momma noted this might have been his favorite show yet at The Puppet Co and it certainly ranks in my top five. I highly recommend it to anyone with kids ages 3.5 and up but act quick because it’s only a three week run: Sept. 21 – Oct. 7. Especially with pesky rain in this weekend’s forecast – and the beautiful carousel still open on weekends at Glen Echo Park – I’d put this at the top of the weekend activity list.