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Fun, with strings attached

Times Staff Writer

“No messages, just a little love.” That’s puppet master Bob Baker’s accurate description of what happens inside the Bob Baker Marionette Theater, a historic fixture on the unglamorous outskirts of downtown L.A. for more than 40 years.

Behind the humble facade of that cinder-block building, with its cracked concrete patio, faded plaster clown and painted daisies, cozy marionette magic is still making children smile six days a week.

The latest show, “It’s a Musical World,” follows Baker’s traditional gentle formula: Nearly 100 of his superbly crafted, beautifully costumed puppets cavort to kitschy recorded music -- old-time novelty songs, selections from kids’ movies and “Sesame Street,” Vegas showstoppers -- and parade out into the audience to sit on little ones’ knees and tickle their upturned, wide-eyed faces.

The marionettes -- plush teddy bears, clowns galore, spangled circus animals, children, space aliens, graceful dancers, comic penguins, a banjo-playing monkey, marching drums, an endearing donkey and more -- are guided by a handful of youthful puppeteers, who at times manipulate as many as eight stringed characters at a time.

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The seating is functional -- just carpet and folding chairs -- but the candy-box decor sparkles with silvery swags, bows, stars, colored lights, fancy draperies and crystal chandeliers. Afterward, as always, there’s a cup of ice cream for all in the “party room” adjoining the puppet workshop.

*

‘It’s a Musical World’

Where: Bob Baker Marionette Theater, 1345 W. 1st St., L.A.

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When: Tuesday-Friday, 10:30 a.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 2:30 p.m.; runs indefinitely

Running time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Cost: $8 to $10

Info: (213) 250-9995


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