Frog and Peach Theatre Company Presents Fairy Tale Series with Puppets and Songs

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For audiences age four and up, Frog and Peach Theatre Company, “a brave company that is a jewel of Off-Broadway” (Ronald Gross, NY Theatre Buying Guide), will present a fairy tale series, “Tinkerbell Theatre,” adapting “Cinderella” (from the Brothers Grimm) and “The Tinderbox” (from Hans Christian Anderson) into Rocky-and-Bullwinkle style plays featuring sing-along songs and big, soft puppets. The plays, written and directed by Lynnea Benson, will be followed by puppet-making workshops to which all kids attending will be invited. The two plays will be presented in repertory April 27 to May 19 at West End Theater, 263 West 86th Street.

Tinkerbell Theatre is Benson’s name for her repertoire of plays that enact classical fairy tales with Rocky-and-Bullwinkle style dialogue, toe-tapping songs and big, soft puppets. “Cinderella” is adapted from the original Brothers Grimm story and “The Tinderbox” is adapted from Hans Christian Anderson. The plays are acted by a cast of six. In both plays, the heroes are played by actors and the villains are played by soft, playful puppets. There are songs are written by Ted Zurkowski, who is co-founder of Frog and Peach.

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Jonathan Reed Wexler and Julia MacMillan in The Tinderbox.. Puppets by Spica Wubbe. Photo by Adele Bossard.

“Cinderella” (Saturdays at 11:30 am and Sundays at 12:30 pm) is a riotous new take on the familiar story of a young girl dispossessed by her murderous Stepmother and wicked Stepsisters. Her friendship with two magical birds (played by puppets) helps her go to the Three Day Ball, where she meets a socially awkward Prince Dreamboat with whom she plays Crazy Eights and compares notes on Ornithology. His parents, the King and Queen (also puppets) are eager to marry him off so they can retire happily to Boca. Now, if only he were able to get that darned slipper to slip onto one of the girls in the kingdom, most of whom are so desperate to marry royalty that they would whittle their feet for a fit!

“The Tinderbox” (Sundays at 11:30 pm and Saturdays at 12:30 pm) is a story of a pure-hearted soldier who finds happiness in an enchanted forest, where he overcomes the schemings of a Wicked Witch, befriends three unforgettable Dogs and wins a beautiful (but lonesome) Princess with the help of a magical Tinderbox that brings you whatever your heart desires…with hilarious results!

All puppets are by Spica Wobbe, an independent puppetry artist from Taiwan whose work has been prominent in the Voice 4 Vision Puppet Festival and works by Chinese Theatre Works, Creative Arts Team, Great Small Works, and Australian Aboriginal Theatre Initiative, among others. She received an MA. in Educational Theater from NYU and has been a teaching artist for New Victory Theater.

The plays are acted by Julia MacMillan, Kaelin Birkenhead, Erick Gonzalez, Alex Simmons, Jonathan Reed Wexler and Lynnea Benson. Movement is by Tom Knutson. Set design is by Andy Estep; costume design by Asa Benally; lighting design is by Dennis Parichy.

Frog and Peach Theatre Company (www.frogandpeachtheatre.org) is widely known for its popular Upper West Side productions of Shakespearean plays. Last fall, it presented “The Taming of the Shrew” simultaneously with Tinkerbell Theater at the West End Theater in October-November. The troupe aims to dispel the “rocket science” myth of Shakespeare by bringing wildly entertaining productions of Shakespeare’s plays to general audiences. They don’t dumb down the texts or adapt plays to the modern period, but they painstakingly craft the scripts to appeal to audiences of all types. Frog and Peach developed Tinkerbell Theatre as a different kind of classics, exclusively for kids. The series had its debut run November, 2009 to January, 2010 and return engagements in May, 2010, October 2012 and December 2012. Audience feedback testified that its “Rocky-and-Bullwinkle style” humor was relished by young and old alike. One Upper West Side mom who wrote in, “We absolutely loved ‘Cinderella’ and our three children, aged 7, 3 and 2, sat enraptured throughout. Even their jaded mothers found it funny!”

Lynnea Benson (Writer/Director), Artistic Director and co-founder of The Frog & Peach Theatre Co., has directed a number of projects there, including “Hamlet “starring Austin Pendleton, “King John” starring Academy Award nominee Catalina Sandino Merino and “As You Like It” starring Sidney Williams. She’s a member of The Actors Studio and attended Barnard College.

Tinkerbell Theatre will be presented April 27 to May 9 on the following schedule: “Cinderella” Saturdays at 11:30 am and Sundays at 12:30 pm; “The Tinderbox” Sundays at 11:30 pm and Saturdays at 12:30 pm. Tickets are $10 in advance online and $12 at the door and available online at www.smarttixcom or by calling (212) 868-4444. Tickets may also be purchased in-person at the theater ½ hour prior to the performance. Running Time is 45 minutes. All performances are followed by a puppet-making workshop. (Please bring an old sock to make into a puppet, or you can purchase an optional puppet kit for $10.) The company’s website is www.frogandpeachtheatre.org.

This family theater production will be performed in repertory at the West End Theater with Frog & Peach Theatre Company’s Spring show for general audiences, “Measure for Measure,” directed by Lynnea Benson, which sets Shakespeare’s classic in a Weimar-esque setting of Europe in the 1930s.

Performances are April 25 to May 19. Saturdays and Sundays at 11:30 AM and 12:30 PM: “Cinderella” Saturdays at 11:30 am and Sundays at 12:30 pm, “The Tinderbox” Sundays at 11:30 am and Saturdays at 12:30 pm, at the West End Theater, 263 West 86th St. (B’way and West End Ave.) Tickets $10 in advance (at 212-868-4444 or through smarttix.com) and $12 at the door. All performances are followed by a puppet-making workshop.

Jonathan Slaff is a New York publicist in the specialty of international cultural events. Jonathan and his writers keep us ahead of the curve in the world of the arts and culture.