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The Short Set: Call Of The Puppets

January 10, 2008|YoMama

When only a professional will sate your child's puppet craving, two local spots offer top-notch, though very different, wooden worlds.

At Santa Monica's Puppetolio!, the ascot-clad Steve Meltzer (pictured) pulls all the strings: taking tickets, starting the music and then hopping on stage to play straight man to a cast of carved pals. There's main sidekick Fred, Elmer the uncooperative juggler and the tap-dancing Calvin. The small theater also serves as a puppet museum, with a vintage mechanical display of 22 moving puppets and a newly acquired, as-yet-unnamed 8-foot-tall clown marionette from England.

Over at the venerable Bob Baker Marionettes, black-clad puppeteers expertly guide their characters so every kid -- sitting on the floor in a big square -- gets an up-close encounter. The current show, "The Nutcracker" (running through Jan. 27), features a huge cast and is heavy on spectacle with dancing flutes, prancing mice, a rock band and a formidable cracker of nuts.

Both shows enthralled Nipper, but Puppetolio! had the most lasting influence. For days now, he's been rehearsing his own "olio" (it means "variety show") and has gone through more string than Howdy Doody. Bob Baker Marionette Theater, 1345 W. 1st St., (213) 250-9995; Puppetolio!, 1014 Broadway, Santa Monica, (310) 656-0483

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-- YoMama@latimes.com

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