Geoff Hoyle as the inspector behind just a few of the many, many puppets in Lemony Snicket's The Composer is Dead

I’ve always felt that the holiday season was a treacherous one for theater.  On one hand it’s a huge cash cow for many non-profit companies because so many people come out to see “A Christmas Carol.” On the other hand it can be hard to find a theater doing a show that I’m personally interested at all to see.  This is where Berkeley Repertory did something smart.  Enter Lemony Snicket’s The Composer is Dead.  A show just over an hour that is totally family appropriate and completely charming.  While it may not satiate the appetite for the more serious theater goers, it’s a fun little romp through a puppet inhabited world filled with folly.

The production is stunning. There was an audible GASP from the audience when the curtain rose.  The puppets are beautiful, albeit underused.  I was pretty surprised that an entire orchestra (and it’s breathtaking) of puppets’ movement was nearly limited to standing and sitting.  In fact, some of the most fun puppetry you get to see happens in the 20 minute video play which opens the evening.  Still the show is a hoot.  While it may be a bit young for many grown ups, it does approach that sort of “good for kids and good for you” feeling that Pixar has mastered in its animations.  Something I also nearly gave a geeky gleeful snort to was that the show teaches kids (and probably a few adults) about what a symphony is made up of, the jobs of the various instruments, people, etc. in such an approachable way that your son or daughter might not notice that you just taught them something.

All in all, it’s a solid choice for a holiday show that you can bring your kids to just as easily as you could your significant other.

Lemony Snicket’s The Composer is Dead, directed by Tony Taccone, runs now through January 15th, 2011.  Tickets are available online here.

Culture Berkeley Repertory Celebrates the Holiday Season with Lemony Snicket