Something's terribly wrong when some of our own local professionals, the puppeteers of Great Arizona Puppet Theater, get passed over every year at Oscar time. What's that? They aren't in films? Well, okay. But there ought to be more love for the talents, discipline, and experience of this 25-year-old wonder troupe.
When Curtains came home and told Mr. Curtains that one person (on this particular day, head puppeteer Lisa Haslbauer) had operated all the puppets and performed all the voices in GAPT's Rumpelstiltskin, he wondered why they keep introducing James Brown as the hardest-working man in show business. Watching Haslbauer work puts adults in a kind of worshipful trance. Kids, notorious takers for granted of the mad skilz of others, just think puppets are way cool.
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Though this version of Rumpelstiltskin doesn't pass the Bechdel test, it does feature a clear-headed heroine who takes on the burden of saving her family and kingdom when everyone around her is lazy, greedy, flaky, and/or evil. (The puppets are animals who walk upright and wear clothes, which neatly sidesteps the Uncanny Valley.)
Not surprisingly, the titular villain is quite a charismatic fella in his own way, though if I were a Reptilian American, I might feel stereotyped by his slimy, cold-blooded creepiness. (Not too creepy for little kids, though -- nobody dies or gets threatened with violence or even with severe sleep deprivation.)
If you or the children in your life are a bit too sophisticated for classic fairy tales, GAPT offers a wide and deep assortment of programming year-round, along with its restored historic building, an amazing rotating exhibit of puppetry, and one of the most irresistible gift shops ever.
Rumpelstiltskin runs through Sunday, March 1 (including weekday morning shows), at Great Arizona Puppet Theater, 302 West Latham Street. Tickets are $6 to $8. Call 602-262-2050 for reservations.