Category Archives: Puppet Shows for Kids

The Puppet Co’s “Carnival of the Animals” – Don’t Miss It!

Narrator Christian Beltran in guest performer Bob Brown Puppets’ production “Carnival of the Animals.” Photo by Christopher Piper.

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.

If you are making plans (Read: looking to avoid the chaos that is pumpkin patches and apple picking), you can catch the show Fridays at 10 & 11:30am or  Saturdays and Sundays at 11:30am & 1pm. Tickets are $10 and now you can purchase tickets online with no extra fees. For anyone with kids ages 0-4, don’t forget the fabulous Tiny Tots program at Puppet Co. which you can catch on select Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Beauty and the Beast opens next on October 12, which is sure to be a hit among my little ones.
Disclosure: The Puppet Co is one of my advertisers and they provided me and my family the tickets to see “Carnival of the Animals.” My opinions here are my own.

Final Stretch of Summer: Indoor Activity Fun

I don’t know about you but I just cannot believe Back to School really is around the corner. Some mornings, I am thrilled with this realization. Other days, I am actually sad about it and dread the stress of getting everyone out the door on TIME. So, with a few weeks left in summer, if you’re anything like me and looking for:

A. A reason to get indoors because everyone has had enough of the pool

B. A fun activity that includes air conditioning

C. A rainy day activity

The evil witch & note use of multi-media in the background with the dwarves. Photo Credit: Bruce Douglas

Look no more friends, here’s an idea for a fun morning – head to the Puppet Co. in Glen Echo Park to see Snow White & the 7 Dwarves, billed as a puppet show appealing to those from Kindergarten through 6th Grade, but in classic moi-form, I ignored the age recommendation and brought my almost four-year-old. Both my girls really enjoyed this 40 minute production which incorporates rod puppets as the dwarves, in this version the dwarves are actually seven bachelors who each have a special power and work for the evil, rotten Queen Rosenrot. The Puppet Co. also uses a multi-media presentation to incorporate the Queen’s magic mirror and enhance the story later in the show. Finally, Snow White and the Prince are performed by live actors.

Noteworthy, I adored the bright red dress the Rose Queen first appears in, showing us only her back, with her absurdly high collar. She was both intimidating and striking in this brilliant costume. My little one kept asking, “When are we going to see the Queen’s face?” but never seeing her face made her all the more scary. Also, the Queen’s son, Prince Stefan, opens the show in a costume fitting only for a Prince in a Grimm fairy tale. Admittedly, I was a little distracted wondering what it would take for me to convince Mr. Wired Momma to wear something similar for Halloween.

The Snow White production was one of the most diverse shows I’ve seen yet at the Puppet Co., in terms of combining puppets, actors and the use of multi-media, which frankly is a remarkable feat in just under 40 minutes.  For skittish kids out there, the witch/Queen did not scare even my youngest one, who despite her love of Superheros and bullying her older sister, actually scares pretty easily. In the end, the dwarves use their special powers to work together to help Snow White and Prince Stefan. I quite enjoyed how the story was altered from the Disney version, where we didn’t meet the Sleepy or Grumpy dwarf but instead encountered these strange seven bachelors who each have a unique (but useful) power. Bottom line: after a week of unpacking and obsessing over paint colors (anyone tired of hearing about my move yet? Cause I am), heading to the Puppet Co. to catch this delightful version of Snow White was a welcome and much-needed break for me and my girls. As for the age recommendation, if you have a real theatre lover, then given the short run-time of this show, I do think kids 4 and up will enjoy the show.

The seven dwarves. Photo Credit: Bruce Douglas

To round out your morning, avid WM readers know that I LOVE any activities at Glen Echo Park. You can combine a great show with a ride (or four) on the carousel, a picnic on the benches, a jaunt to the playground and even a hike down to the creek on your way back to the parking lot.

Details on Snow White:
When: July 21 – Sept. 2
Times: Thursdays & Fridays at 10 & 11:30am; Saturdays & Sundays at 11:30am & 1pm
Where: the Puppet Co. Playhouse
Recommended: K – Grade 6
Running Time: 40 minutes
Tickets: $10 for everyone 2 and older.  Group rates available.
Disclosure: I am proud that the Puppet Co. is one of my newest advertisers on my blog, in addition they gifted the tickets to me and my girls for this show. My opinions here, however, are all my own.

Tales of Beatrix Potter at the Puppet Co.

By now you probably know that if there is a show at Glen Echo Park, at the Puppet Co. or Adventure Theatre, then I am going to go check it out with my girls. I am certain that Glen Echo Park is a real gem of Maryland and every production at its theatres is bound to be fun-filled for our kids. Last weekend, we hit the Puppet Co. for Applause Unlimited’s Tales of Beatrix Potter. Billed as appropriate for Pre-K through Grade 4, we hedged our bets and also brought our almost 3-year-old. The 45 minute show was filled with adorable puppets and enough physical comedy to keep the kids amused and entertained the whole time. We loved it!

Showing until October 9, The Tales of Beatrix Potter is a one-man show with a multitude of adorable animal puppets.

Jeremy Fisher the brightly-dressed Frog. Photo Credit: the Puppet Co.

The opening tale, “Two Bad Mice,”  includes two rascally mice who wreak havoc on a young girl, Lucinda’s, playroom and doll house. My three-year-old was especially delighted with their antics and energy though all the children were enthralled with what trouble the playroom mice would find next. The second tale, “Jeremy  Fisher,”  introduces us to Jeremy Fisher the frog, dressed in bright red rain boots and rain coat, who takes us on his adventures fishing in the rain. And finally, we meet Jemima the duck who wants to lay her eggs in a safe warm place and, you might remember, chooses a fox’s den. The youngest children in the audience were beginning to fade off by the third tale, hence the Puppet Co’s labeling of this as age-appropriate for those closer to four, but we still were glad we brought our youngest. The younger ones might not absorb the final lesson of trust but they still delighted in the creative performance and story-telling.

Initially I was thinking this play might appeal mainly to young girls but in reality, that wasn’t the case at all. The colorful cast of animal puppets and the heavy reliance on physical comedy throughout the show makes this a great outing for boys and girls. Christopher Hudert is the sole puppeteer and actor in the play and his extensive experience in children’s theater, including many years as the Boss Clown for the Ringling Bros., is evident through his range of voices, pitch and easy ability to transition into different characters through the three tales.

Fan rushing Jemima Puddleduck post-performance

The Tales of Beatrix Potter is runs on Thursdays through Sundays and you have until October 9 to catch it, so I encourage parents with younger children to book their tickets today! Tickets are $10  and can be purchased online or by calling (301) 634-5380.  The beloved carousel is still open at Glen Echo, in September it is open on Saturdays and Sundays from noon-6pm. Up next at the Puppet Co. is The 3 Billy Goats Gruff from October 13 – November 18.

Disclosure: the Puppet Co. gifted the tickets to me for this performance but my opinions here are my own.

Follow the Yellow Brick Road…to the Puppet Co

Hilarious portrayal of the Munchkins

When it’s this hot out, there’s certainly no place like (an air-conditioned) home…or an air-conditioned theater. So, while you’re sweating through the dog days of August, I’d urge you to put on your sparkly red shoes,  pack up the older kids and head indoors for the Puppet Co’s rendition of “The Wizard of Oz”. This delightful, hilarious and campy production runs a succinct 55 minutes long and is guaranteed to entertain kids Kindergarten on up. We took a lovely reprieve from the oppressive heat last Sunday and headed to the show. I took only my eldest and two of her friends came along. My daughter hasn’t yet seen the movie and I think at 5.5 she’s a bit young for the book but we’d discussed the plot and the characters in advance and she was geared up, particularly excited to see Toto.

The actors in the production use a combination of puppet styles throughout the performance, ranging from tabletop puppets, Dorothy is a marionette, to masks and costumes (for the lion) and moving-mouth puppets. Hands down, the adult favorite in the room was the way the munchkins were portrayed, which was hilariously executed by adult faces popping up from underneath the stage, wearing small costumes around their chests. Honestly, we couldn’t get enough of it and the exuberance of the actors on this opening weekend was palpable.

Variety of Puppets used throughout the production

The children are guided through Dorothy’s epic tale of trying to return to Kansas with the help of the same 4 actors taking on various roles and costumes. For the timid out there, the cast and crew did a good job of using music and one scary puppet to portray the Wicked Witch of the West. Her character is on stage for a brief period of time and one of my daughter’s friends, who is open about not liking to be scared, was happy to just sit close to her mom as Dorothy out-witted the evil witch.

Though the life lessons and morals woven throughout Frank Baum’s classic were most likely lost on the younger ones in the audience, including my daughter, any older kids in the audience are likely to appreciate the themes of good conquering evil, finding comfort in home and friends and appreciating the wisdom, heart and courage we already have.  The younger ones will delight in the puppets, the colors, the well written script and if they are anything like my daughter, the cute small stuffed dog playing Toto.

The Puppet Co.  never disappoints and every detail was considered, down to the theater staff dressed like women from the 1900s attending the Kansas State Fair. I particularly loved that attention to detail. The show runs Thursdays through Sundays until September 4. Tickets are $10 for adults and children. And if you’re on the hunt for indoor activities for the younger ones among us, don’t forget the Puppet Co. has “Tiny Tots” select Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays at 10am, recommended for kids ages 0-4. Tickets are $5 each. Look for “Tales of Beatrix Potter” beginning September 16 through October 9.

Fans swarming Dorothy after the show

Disclosure: I was given tickets to the Puppet Co. to see The Wizard of Oz but my review is my opinion.