By Shawn Hopkins.
Published February 11, 2007.
Fred Garbo Inflatable Theater Company's performance is not Hamlet. There were no volatile emotions on Martinsville High School's stage Saturday night, no deep dramatic irony.
But that did not stop children in the audience from enjoying it, along with their parents.
The more than 550 people in the audience clapped, cheered and laughed as Maine performer Garbo and ballerina Daielma Santos danced, juggled, mimed, joked and tumbled through the broadly comedic performance, sponsored by the Piedmont Arts Association. Garbo's show is unique, and literally as airy as its presentation, because it is built around large inflatable props created from parachute material that Garbo and Santos inflated, deflated and deformed.
The props range from abstract cubes which Garbo and Santo tossed or manipulated and moved from the inside, to full inflatable suits, including one dubbed "Fred Zeplin," billed as the inflatable man, and an man-sized inflatable dog suit.
Zeplin performed a wild lip-sync and dance routine to a version of The Contours' hit "Do You Love Me (Now That I Can Dance?)" and during the climax of the show danced with Santos wearing her own version of the suit to "Put Your Head on My Shoulder," originally by Paul Anka.
Garbo, who once Muppeteered Sesame Street's "Barkley the Dog" suit, climbed inside the inflatable dog and brought it to life. At one point he lifted his leg against one of the other inflatable props, an example of the show's broad comedy.
The show also included several juggling acts from the energetic, spry Garbo and ribbon dances and ballet dances from Santos, who once was the principal dancer for the Opera Paulista Company of Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Audience participation was encouraged, including clapping and singing along during "Do You Love Me" and interaction with some of the props. At the end Garbo threw several of them into the audience for the children to bounce.
Barbara Parker, Piedmont Arts Association director of programs, said that although Piedmont Arts usually focuses on adult shows, "kids want to be entertained, too." The program was a good fit for the schedule because it is something that entrances children, but a show adults also can enjoy, she added.
"It's fun for all ages," she said. Sometimes it is good to step away from drama and "just laugh."
Those who attended the show seemed to agree.
"It was very enjoyable for the kids," said Carole McGovern of Martinsville. "The comedy was the best part of all of it."
He daughter, Elli McGovern, 5, said she "thought it was great." She said her favorite part was "the princess," referring to a number where Santos danced without music in a long, flowing dress. At the climax there is a lighting effect that makes her seem to glow and disappear as the stage lights go down.
Teri Nichols of Henry County said her family also enjoyed the show.
"It was fun," said her son, Chase, 9. Another son Parker, 6, said he simply liked "the balloons."