‘Wood Boy Dog Fish’ Review – What Does it Mean to be “real”?

Ben Messmer as Geppetto – Photo Credit Chelsea Sutton
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On opening night the entire theatre inside and out was awash with a rich and alluring carnival sense. It set the tone for what was to come and it was truly a work of art created by Jason Anderson and Victoria of HHFX. So I begin with a heartfelt salute to their good work. And then the house opened and the drama accelerated. I believe this will continue throughout the run and I surely hope so, because it truly does set the stage.


The set design was absolutely spectacular. It was very three dimensional and visually captivating; arguably one of the most intriguing I have seen, and I have seen thousands. But then again that is pretty much the standard for the Garry Marshall Theatre. Now let the show begin.


‘Wood Boy Dog Fish’ is heavily influenced by if not based on the 1940 Disney hit movie “Pinocchio” but this takes it to a whole new level. Geppetto is wood carver who, with some magic from Blue creates a living wooden puppet who strives to become real. But along his danger filled path the question, to some extent, becomes what exactly does it mean to be “real?”

One lobby display – Photo Credit: Ron Irwin

On his pursuit of “real” Wood Boy is threatened by a seemingly never ending array of dangers and unsavory characters including the fabled Dog Fish monster. With a steady plethora of astounding costumes and masks, original music and phenomenal stage effects Pinocchio winds his way through Shoreside, a tourist trap with a strange and quirky carnival atmosphere. All is brought powerfully to life with great acting, great music and a whole lot of special effects.


It is so intense and the action is so fast that at times I found it almost overwhelming. At the suggestion of my good friend and top tier actor friend who joined me for “Wood Boy Dog Fish” Victor Onuigbo I revisited Disney’s 1940 smashed hit movie “Pinocchio”, a show I hadn’t seen in such a long time I won’t even tell you how long, and suddenly everything fell into sharp focus.   So if you want to assure maximum enjoyment of you viewing of “Wood Boy Dog Fish” I would highly recommend you spend just a minute or two at this site first wikipediaPinocchio_(1940_film)

But again that question of exactly what does it mean to be “real” keeps jumping up. At one point the adorable cricket is killed, but is he? Was that killing real? I ask because he returns. And what about the choking and gasping when he is hung at the end of Act One.? How can a rope around a piece of wood serving as a neck cause choking when there are no lungs/ Oh wait maybe that chunk of wood is in transition into something else, something more real.


It is thoughts and experiences like this that fill the show with massive energy and visual as well as mental stimulation and I love shows that not only create emotion but which also generate mental stimulation, and “Wood Boy Dog Fish” does that abundantly. Ergo this is a show of great entertainment value but I am also convinced that to see it at its very best you really do need to refresh your recollection of Pinocchio first. Yes I know I just repeated myself but that is because I truly do believe it is that important to achieve maximum joy from watching a truly great cast deliver a deeply memorable performance on stage now at the Garry Marshall Theatre in Burbank, California. It is a wild and zany ride and one you will long remember.

Cricket at entrance to theatre – Photo Credit: Ron Irwin

And one other thought to contemplate. Could it be that Geppetto is the father of Wood Boy and that Blue is his mother? I don’t know if that was a subliminal intent of playwright Chelsea Sutton or not, but it emerged in my mind as a possibility as I was re-exploring this show in preparation for writing this review. And that is yet but one more example of the awesome mental stimulation “Wood Boy Dog Fish” delivers.


Written by Chelsea Sutton and produced by Rogue Artists Ensemble “Wood Boy Dog Fish” is on stage now through June 24th 2018 at the Garry Marshall Theatre, 4252 Riverside Drive, Burbank, California 91505. Ticketing and reservations are available by calling 818-955-9101 or online at: GarryMarshallTheatre website.



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