The newest production of Marc Robin’s classic fairy tale musical PINOCCHIO! at Marriott Theatre for Young Audiences in Lincolnshire, a suburb about 30 minutes from Chicago, doesn’t have children cast members but the kids cheered on the namesake of the play as he made his journey from wooden puppet to a real boy.

Marriott Lincolnshire

Andrew Spatafora and Dara Cameron perform in Pinocchio!, currently playing at Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire. (Photo courtesy of Marriott Theatre.)

Andrew Spatafora and Dara Cameron perform in Pinocchio!, currently playing at Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire. (Photo courtesy of Marriott Theatre.)

Children’s theater that includes child actors appeals to me because it allows children in the audience to see kids in action. The newest production of Marc Robin’s classic fairy tale musical PINOCCHIO! at Marriott Theatre for Young Audiences in Lincolnshire, a suburb about 30 minutes from Chicago, doesn’t have children cast members but the kids cheered on the namesake of the play as he made his journey from wooden puppet to a real boy.

TMOM Travel DisclosureAs with most plays, the production veers slightly from the fairy tale but Andrew Spatafora really brings Pinocchio to life, as does Jarrod Zimmerman who plays the wood carver Geppetto and George Keating who plays Geppetto’s sidekick Hopper. Pinocchio encounters several characters along the way who challenge his conscience and like many great performances, teachable moments are incorporated throughout in a way that is both educational yet fun and funny.

The acting was excellent, to be sure, but the costumes, music and special effects make the entire production shine. Director Dominic Missimi is joined by Music Director Tom Vendafreddo and Choreographer Amanda Tanguay in their Marriott Theatre debuts.

Also, the theater in the round makes it easy for everyone to have great seats and enjoy the entire show from beginning to end. My kids were on the older side at 8 and 10 years of age but the show kept their attention the entire time just as it did with the mostly 3- and 4-year-old crowd and their parents and grandparents in attendance.

The production runs through August 2, 2015, at 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire.

PINOCCHIO! is a one-hour presentation for kids and adults and is followed by a question and answer session with the cast. The questions during our visit ranged from how old Geppetto’s Jarrod Zimmerman is in real like (spoiler: somewhere in his 30s) and how does Pinocchio change from puppet to little boy so quickly.

Dining and Parking in Lincolnshire

Living in Chicago, I’m accustomed to seeing theatrical performances in big and small theaters throughout the city, from companies like Emerald City Theater and theaters like Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place where I took my daughter last summer. We normally take public transportation or drive and pay for parking so imagine my surprise when we drove to Marriott Lincolnshire and free parking is available! Most people who don’t live in cities where parking is a) a pain or b) expensive won’t understand my excitement over free parking but suffice to say it’s a treat.

However, the downside of heading out to the suburbs for a performance, one that you don’t know well, is that I’m not as familiar with the dining options. A little advance research showed me that the theater is part of the Marriott Lincolnshire Resort which includes a hotel and Kings Wharf Restaurant so if you wanted to grab lunch after the show, you’re in luck. I’d recommend making reservations before you head to the show, though.

For those wanting to eat before attending a performance, you can’t go wrong with Walker Brothers. Be forewarned: the apple pancake is to die for and best for sharing because it’s huge!

How to Dress for the Theater

Some people ask what the proper attire is for theater these days, especially for young children. The performance we attended had kids wearing everything from dresses and khaki pants and shorts. Some kids were really dressed up with pearl necklaces and little purses and so were their parents. For some theater-goers, attending a show is very much a formal experience. For others, it’s very casual and they were dressed as though they were heading to a movie theater.

Personally, I don’t judge how people dress to attend a performance. If you want to dress up, dress up. If you’d be more comfortable in comfortable clothing, wear what works for you. I do think it’s fun to dress up when I’m heading to a performance but others like their jeans and that’s fine, too. If I were heading to the Opera or Symphony, that’s another story.

PINOCCHIO! plays most Wednesdays through Sundays at 10 a.m. and runs through August 2 at 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire. Don’t forget, free parking is available for all shows and single ticket prices are $17.23 per person (includes fees and taxes). To order tickets, learn show times and dates, visit MarriottTheatre.com or call (847) 634-0200.