The Puppet Co.’s fairytale ‘Magic Mirror’ delights parents and kids

The gorgeously crafted and wonderfully expressive puppets garnered excited chatter each time a new character was introduced.

Come for the puppets, stay for the company.

A legacy production for the Puppet Co., Magic Mirror is a delightful mash-up of fairytale tropes that had this millennial’s heart singing. The story follows the life of young Toad, the unknowing daughter of King Helios and Queen Brycelyn. At her naming ceremony, her evil aunt, the icy Queen Johlyn (an evil Elsa character mixed with the vocal effects of Moira Rose) arrives and gifts the family a cursed magic mirror, putting the kingdom to sleep and stealing the young princess away. Toad is unaware of her lineage and she shuns her own magical powers (her tears can make spring flowers appear even among the most barren parts of Queen Johlyn’s kingdom). Think part Sleeping Beauty, part Cinderella, and part Snow White. She’s sweet, she has a sharp wit, and she has simply befallen a terrible lot as a result of her beauty and stifled power. When Johlyn commands the adorably forgetful dragon Agoth to kill Toad and to guard the dark magic mirror, Agoth brings Toad to the edges of the kingdom, thanks her for her years of friendship, and then tells her to run away and never return.

King Helios, Queen Brycelyn (Ingrid Bork), Queen Bee (Lee Gerstenhaber), and Lady Bug (Mollie Greenberg) in ‘Magic Mirror.’ Photo by Elizabeth Dapo.

Toad’s journey is highlighted by the hapless Lochlan (who has a great frog prince moment), and the elderly wizard couple Mudrick and Nanya (who really reminded me of Miracle Max and Valerie from the classic film The Princess Bride). With their friendship and tutelage, Toad learns of her past and finds the inner strength to return to her aunt’s kingdom to destroy the magic mirror that has kept them all in this alternate reality for so long. Upon her arrival, she upends the wrongs done to her for so many years by Johlyn’s two dragon henchmen, Bumber and Pizor. As she approaches the mirror, Toad lovingly helps Agoth remember the years of friendship they shared before he saved her life. Upon witnessing her magic once more, the dragon smiles down on her and steps out of the way. The happily ever after we’ve all been waiting for finally arrives as Toad breaks the mirror, sending everyone back to the moment of her naming ceremony so many years ago when she was first stolen away from her loving parents.

As a parent, I was thrilled with the warm welcome my daughter received as we entered the playhouse. Coloring pages and crayons were front and center for all to use as they waited for the doors to open and the lobby was filled with images and puppets from the company’s expansive archive. Once the doors opened, we entered the playhouse proper, where parents and guardians could seat themselves on cushioned benches lining the walls or sit on the padded floor with their children. Opting for the floor, my daughter, my partner, and I settled in to enjoy the show.

I was instantly blown away by the artistry of the puppets themselves. They were gorgeously crafted and wonderfully expressive, garnering some excited chatter from the children around me each time a new character was introduced. The dramatic entrance of the shimmering Queen Johlyn was particularly effective amongst the crowd seated on the floor. The set pieces that were encountered (an enchanted pond with a working waterfall and a puppet frozen in ice and snow) were beautifully intricate, and the illustration work in each projection was stylistically lovely. The costumes of each puppet were immaculate, and though it was a bit tough to discern the lines being said at times, the performances given by Ingrid Bork, Lee Gerstenhaber, and Mollie Greenberg were energetic and endearing. Their stamina and ability to transition from character to character were masterful.

The voices all three performers created for each character were delightful, especially those of the dragons and the bug royalty at Toad’s naming ceremony. But the puppet that stole the show (and my daughter’s heart) was Bork’s gentle giant, Agoth. The largest puppet in the production, this bright blue dragon towered over the other characters, but his imposing presence was softened by his soothing voice and Dory-esque humor. Each time this friendly fellow entered the stage, the whole room seemed to light up (and sometimes it did — there were some Agoth-loving kids in the room with light-up shoes that blinked brightly as they kicked their feet in excitement).

Toad (Mollie Greenberg) and Agoth (Ingrid Bork) in ‘Magic Mirror.’ Photo by Elizabeth Dapo.

Much like the other children seated on the floor, my daughter was quickly caught up in the magical world created on stage. She was truly worried for Toad’s well-being, capturing this mama’s heart with every gasp and excited clap of her hands. When she got too afraid at one point, the kind attention and warm words of the House Manager on duty gave her the confidence to join me back on the floor so she could see the happy ending for herself. She was also excited after the show to see some of the puppets up close and to ask the performers a few questions. Bork, Gerstenhaber, and Greenberg were all gracious with their time in answering the many questions of the interested children in the audience. After learning how they made each puppet move, my daughter grabbed my hand and told me she wanted to be a puppeteer, too. She also asked if we could come back to see Magic Mirror again. If the Puppet Co.’s mission is to nurture the future of performing artists and puppet lovers, I think this proves that they’re on the right track.

Running Time: 50 minutes, no intermission.

Magic Mirror plays through March 24, 2024 (Thursdays and Fridays at 10:30 am, Saturdays and Sundays at 11:30 am and 1 pm) presented by the Puppet Co. performing at the Puppet Co. Playhouse, 7300 Macarthur Blvd, Glen Echo, MD, 20812. Purchase tickets ($15 per person, under age 2 no ticket required) online.

Recommended for ages 4+.

COVID Safety: Masks are strongly encouraged for all patrons age 2 and older.



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