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Theater Review: "3 Tales with 8 Tails" by Olympia Family Theater

Could be the best family theater script of the season

Olympia Family Theater knows puppets. Courtesy photo

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Olympia Family Theater continues to make amazingly high quality family theater with their latest production, 3 Tales with 8 Tails. Deanne Shellman directs, in collaboration with Mark Asbel Gerth, a phenomenally fun show that has the actors singing, dancing and puppeteering. While the puppets are one of the best things about the performance, the script is original and arguably the best family script of the season. The premise is a band of storytellers is performing Three Billy Goats Gruff, Bremen Town Musicians and Queen Bee.

Mark Gerth initially wrote the script and then the actor/puppeteers added "dialogue, lyrics, and inspiration" to the production. The result is plenty of comedy for children and adults. Many of the songs are reworked old rock or jazz standards and the adults will find humor there, while the kids will giggle at the lyrics and some of the more campy renditions. The stories all had a moral that was overtly pointed out at the end without seeming "preachy" and any adult considering taking a child will no doubt be pleased about the ideas of teamwork and kindness to others that are central to all the stories.

Gerth also designed the puppets and did so brilliantly. The use of shadow puppets not only eliminated the need for multiple full-scale sets or set changes but also made the scenery/set seem more elaborate than sparse. While the shadow puppets were well done and beautiful, the marionettes were so adorable, I would purchase non-marionette versions for my children (OK, for me). The actors manipulating the puppets made them come to life and it was easy to focus on them rather than the puppeteers operating in plain sight.

Boojie Waldron was the Storyteller for all three stories and was wonderful. Korja Giles, Amy Shepherd, Katie Youngers Tallman and Heather Christopher were puppeteers or actors in all three stories. Jamie Jenson was in Bremen Town Musicians and Queen Bee. While they all were quite talented, Heather Christopher was hysterical as the Troll in Three Billy Goats Gruff although Katie Youngers Tallman as the Tall Robber and Amy Shephard as the Short Robber in Bremen Town Musicians possibly drew the largest laughs from the audience.

Hats off to the crew for the beautiful set and lighting. The musicians were great as well and the use of coconuts for the billy goats trip trapping across the bridge was perfect.

3 Tales with 8 Tails would be the highlight of any family's week. If coming from farther away than Olympia, it is totally worth the drive even without the coffee shops and ice cream within walking distance.

3 TALES WITH 8 TAILS, 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, through June 8, Washington Center, 512 Washington St. SE, Olympia, $10-$16, 360.753.8586

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