During the Oct. 24 dress rehearsal of Roberta Jones Junior Theatre’s “Pinocchio,” about 25 young cast members illustrated the story of a father’s infinite love for his child. Directed by Katie Ratermann, this musical introduced an elderly and unmarried toy maker named Geppetto who longs for his own child. Geppetto creates a wooden puppet named Pinocchio. When Pinocchio comes to life, he is disobedient and makes choices that separate him from his father, however, Geppetto refuses to rest until he finds his son again.
Distinguishing this musical from other American musicals was the occasional use of Italian in the cast members’ lines and singing. For example, the show opened with a solo from the narrator Antonio, played by Jack Lingscheit, 13, who sang “Buon Giorno,” meaning “good day.” Eventually, the townspeople joined in on this song.
“‘Buon Giorno’ is a phrase where we had to remember to put in a ‘w’ sound for the ‘buon’ syllable and you have to roll the ‘r’ for the ‘giorno,’” said Kathy Smith, the show’s Vocal Director. “I would pronounce the lyrics and have them repeat. I feel that it is harder to teach the kids to sing in English because they don’t always enunciate. Singing in Italian, the kids don’t have preconceived ideas of how something is supposed to sound. So they mimic the pronunciation much better.”
“It was a little difficult to know how to say the words in a different accent and to say the words correctly,” Lingscheit said of singing in Italian. “Kathy worked with me everyday on how to say the words.”
Pinocchio, played by Diego Navarro, 12, proved his worth to the skeptical townspeople by singing the dreamy “Santa Lucia” in Italian. Mesmerized by a puppet who could perform without being pulled by strings, the townspeople joined in on the song.
YouTube was a helpful resource for Navarro, who referred to videos of the song to help him learn the notes.
“It was pretty easy to learn the words because I speak Spanish at home. Spanish and Italian are similar languages,” said Navarro. “In the script, the song is talking about the sea and St. Lucia, a saint that the people worship.”
Nicky Caldwell, 16, played Geppetto. His lines came with a few Italian words and phrases, such as “grazia dio,” which is a joyful exclamation for “happy day.”
“We had to learn a lot of new words,” Caldwell said. “There are definitions of the Italian words at the beginning of the script. From watching tutorial videos, I know the mouth placement and sounds from the Italian language. That made saying those Italian words and phrases easier.”
“It’s the first show of our 50th anniversary season,” said Kevin Cornelius, Recreation Supervisor for the Santa Clara City Parks and Recreation Department. “We’re celebrating 50 years of Roberta Jones Junior Theater in the City of Santa Clara.”
“Pinocchio” opened on Oct. 26 and will run until Nov. 4. Visit www.rjjt.org for more information about future shows and audition opportunities.