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By Amelia Tarallo
Hometown Weekly Staff
“I think once you’ve seen a puppet show, you’ve seen them all,” said one mom at Thursday February 20th’s Pumpernickel Puppet Show at the Walpole Library. “But I don’t know if I’d consider this just a puppet show.”
The Pumpernickel Puppet Show has become notorious for being much more than your typical puppet show. John McDonough has made sure of that, with his life-sized puppets, high energy, and fantastically timed humor.McDonough began his set with an adaptation of Beatrix Potter’s “Peter Rabbit.” Within seconds, the seasoned puppeteer brought the story to life, including the run-in and face-off with Mr. McGregor over some stolen vegetables. Despite Mr. McGregor’s hopes to turn Peter into stew, the young rabbit escapes and makes it back home to his mom and sister - with some laughs at the farmer’s expense.
McDonough moved on to demonstrating how some of the puppets work after Peter’s escapades. He showed his audience how Mr. McGregor’s puppet consists of two separate pieces: one for the hand, and another for the head, with each one going on one of his own hands.
He then procured Goldie, a life-sized puppet, who danced amongst the crowd to the classic “These Boots are Made for Walkin’”, making most of children laugh while some even danced around to the music.
Later, McDonough’s friendly string feline puppet would made her way right into the audience, walking amongst the crowd of delighted children.
What makes the Pumpernickel Puppet Show most impressive is that McDonough creates each one of these personable characters himself - and he encourages others to do the same. He showed, for example, a chicken that demonstrated that recycled materials can be used to make great puppet. The head was made of a cleaning supply bottle, the chicken’s comb was a rubber glove, and the character’s shirt was thrifted. “You can make some great puppets out of stuff around your house,” explained McDonough to his enthralled audience.
John McDonough has been performing puppet shows for fifty years, and his experience seems to have made him one of the best. Watching the antics of Peter Rabbit and the educational portion of the show, it was hard not to recall puppetry masters like Jim Henson. Needless to say, the Pumpernickel Puppet Show is something these kids will remember forever.