Monday, May 17, 2010
When I received the invitation for John Tartaglia’s ImaginOcean I thought it sounded like a fun show, but voting season is such a busy time for theatre critics that I put it aside and hoped I could get to it later. When our Drama Desk nominations were announced and ImaginOcean got a nod for Unique Theatrical Experience I knew the time had come. And I was right. It is a thoroughly delightful little show.
My friend Trixy and I were the only unaccompanied adults in the theatre at New World Stages, but we got right into the spirit of this underwater journey of friendship and adventure. And the subtle lessons of determination, teamwork and creativity are good to remember at any age. I came out with the songs (music and lyrics by composer William Wade) playing in my head, but not in that annoying way some little kids’ tunes can drive you crazy. These songs -- I especially loved “On Our Way” -- are an important part of the upbeat experience of the afternoon.
Against a black light background as the ocean floor and with plenty of special effects, three effervescently colorful and illuminated fish -- Tank, Bubbles and Dorsel -- go in search of a treasure chest, “swimming through a maze against the current,” encountering other little creatures along the way. Because they don’t know the way, they must learn to figure it out. To do so they address the children in the audience and ask for their help, a great way to keep youngsters involved.
At the end of their journey, the three travelers discover the greatest treasure is friendship, and Dorsel learns that by not being afraid or letting his imagination get carried away, he could succeed. “I believed in myself and I did it,” he exclaims triumphantly.
Veteran director and choreographer Donna Drake directs the unseen puppeteers who bring the creatures, designed and built by artists at The Puppet Kitchen in New York City, to life. The brilliantly colored sets were designed by set Robert Kovach.
ImaginOcean is the latest brainchild of John Tartaglia, creator, executive producer and star of the Emmy Award nominated “Johnny and the Sprites” (now airing worldwide). Earning a Tony nomination for his performance in Avenue Q, Tartaglia was most recently seen on Broadway as Pinocchio in Shrek the Musical and previously starred as Lumiere in Beauty and the Beast. A 10-year veteran of “Sesame Street,” Tartaglia is one of the youngest puppeteers ever to perform on the show, starting at age 16.
ImaginOcean’s 50-minute running time is just right. Even the toddlers in their mom’s laps stayed involved, although with a bit of squirming on the part of the little fellow next to me.
For tickets and a video clip about the show, visit www.imaginoceanthemusical.com.