A gabby beanstalk plays a starring role in “Jack Rabbit and the Beanstalk,” a corny, colorful puppet production presented by Douglas Seymore Marionettes at the Enchanted Forest in Woodland Hills.
One toddler cried during the blackouts between scenes at a recent performance, but the rest of the pint-sized audience members, mostly ages 3 to 5, sat in rapt attention as unseen puppeteers (hands came into view now and then) pulled strings overhead to put Seymore’s appealing marionettes through their paces.
It seems that in the kingdom of Les Fleurs, Princess Blossom’s golden egg-laying chicken as well as Shirley Squirrel and a singing harp have all vanished. The harp’s disappearance especially takes a toll; without its song, no flowers will bloom.
The plot thickens when tricky W.C. Fox gives young Jack Rabbit “money tree seeds” (shades of Pinocchio) for Bessie the Cow. The result is a comical beanstalk who becomes Jack’s pal.
Designed by Rene Zendejas, the beaky, talking stalk, with its benign resemblance to the plant in “Little Shop of Horrors,” provides Jack transportation to the giant’s abode on Cloud Nine, where the mystery of the missing items is solved.
The action takes place on two small side-by-side stages, against Seymore’s charmingly painted storybook sets, with set pieces that move to suggest changes of scene, an effect not always smoothly executed.
The show’s visual charm is its strength. The puppetry is uneven and the humor in Thom Fountain’s script--game show host imitations, references to the Internet, Jack’s bear pal’s Eddie Haskell persona--is only mildly amusing. But that doesn’t matter to young audience members, who are clearly delighted with the puppet actors. The show-stealer is the Muppet-style giant, not seen until more than halfway through the show but goofy-looking and big enough to be worth the wait.
* “Jack Rabbit and the Beanstalk,” Enchanted Forest, 20929 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills, Thursdays and Fridays at 10 a.m.; Saturdays at 2 and 7 p.m.; Sundays at 7 p.m. for an indefinite run. $7. (818) 716-7202.
Spotlight on Talent: High school students are invited to audition for the 10th annual Music Center Spotlight Awards competition in the categories of ballet, jazz/modern dance, classical voice, musical theater/pop voice, classical instrumental music and jazz instrumental music. Visual artists are to submit posters. Winners in each performing arts category receive $5,000; runners-up take home $2,500; visual arts winners receive cash awards ranging from $250 to $1,500.
The program, designed to reward and encourage young talent in the visual and performing arts, gives those selected as semifinalists the opportunity to train in master classes with members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the L.A. Opera and other professionals. Finalists will showcase their talent in a gala performance at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on March 24, and winning visual artists will have their artwork exhibited at a special reception.
“It’s a great validation of one’s level of talent,” said Barbara Haig, special projects producer for the Music Center. “It’s also a really great springboard for a professional career, in terms of contacts you can make and opportunities that are enhanced by being able to perform in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.”
Another benefit, Haig pointed out, is the coast-to-coast attention that the prestigious event receives.
“Just being able to say you’re the recipient of a Spotlight Award really opens doors,” she said. “The nation’s top arts schools are very aware of it.”
The recognition and scholarship program are open to solo performers and visual artists who are Southern California residents currently enrolled in the ninth through 12th grades in any public, private, professional or parochial school from San Diego to Santa Barbara counties. The deadline for performing artists to apply is Oct. 10, accompanied by a $10 application fee; the visual arts deadline is Dec. 10 and requires no fee.
* Applications are available by writing to the Spotlight Awards, care of the Music Center, 717 W. Temple St., Suite 400, Los Angeles, CA 90012; or by contacting Barbara Haig at (213) 202-2245.