Swimming With the First-Nighters at Tartaglia's ImaginOcean

PlayBlog   Swimming With the First-Nighters at Tartaglia's ImaginOcean
An undersea puppet-show, which John Tartaglia concocted for a cruise ship last spring and subsequently rewrote last fall as an hour-long theatre piece, dropped anchor March 31 at one of the available subterranean spaces at New World Stages. PlayBlog jumped into the Deep End on opening night.

John Tartaglia's ImaginOcean is made to order for tadpoles and young minnows, and the first-night audience consisted of the appreciative family trade.

"For me," said the Tony-nominated puppeteer, "it's cool because I've never written anything before that's done for theatre — and also because I produced it and brought all these people together who, at different parts of my life, I've worked with — people from The Muppets, from 'Johnny and the Sprites' and from Avenue Q."

Tartaglia spent the evening pacing at the back of the house rather than performing on stage. "The whole thing is tracked," he noted. "We spent weeks in a recording studio getting it right. My voice is in the show forever." Make that voices: He speaks for five different characters. Director Donna Drake (Tricia in the original A Chorus Line) provides two more. There is a chorus of 15 and an orchestra of 16, executing a good half-dozen kid-accessible songs by composer William Wade.

"My goal is for people to come, spend an hour, forget it all, go under the sea and have a little adventure," he said. "For kids, I hope they see the magic of musical theatre."

Making the maiden voyage on opening night were some of his Avenue Q pals (Ann Harada, Rick Lyon, director Jason Moore); M. Butterfly Tony winner B.D. Wong; Christopher Sieber and Lucas Steele of The Kid, coming Theatre Row's Acorn; Kevin Clash and Elmo of "Sesame Street"; Colleen Zenk Pinter and Terry Columbino of "As the World Turns"; Emmy winner Linda Dano of "Another World" and stars from neighboring shows at New World Stages (Betty Buckley and Peter Scolari of White's Lies, bowing in the coming weeks, and Michael Urie of the gay-history play The Temperamentals, which, rather awkwardly, shares stage space with ImaginOcean). The kid-friendly show plays three shows on Wednesdays (11, 2 and 7) and one each on Saturday (at 11) and Sunday (at noon).

— Harry Haun

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