Produced by Puppet Showplace Theatre
And Franklin Park Zoo
Creative Direction and Lead Design by Brad Shur
Produced and Stage Directed by Roxanna Myhrum
Costume Design by Kristen Connolly
Sound Design by Andrew Duncan Will
Lighting Design by Chris Bocchario
Review by Danielle Rosvally
(Dorchester, MA) Halloween is (seriously) my most favorite time of the year and I am always looking for new ways to celebrate it. In addition to gorging on pumpkin spice everything, this year I was so excited to have the opportunity to take a jaunt in the jungle at Franklin Park Zoo’s inaugural Midnight Zoo. This collaboration with the Puppet Showplace Theatre brings visitors on a journey into a realm of mythical beasts and wonderful creatures.
The Midnight Zoo is a trail walk through a series of pre-stage encounters with fantastical beings and their handlers. The creatures come in all shapes and sizes, and range from the nearly grotesque to the stunningly beautiful. All of the creatures move and/or interact with the audience in some way, and the keepers who work with the creatures help explain to visitors how special their charges are. My favorite creatures were definitely the luminous Rutach; giant, glowing deer-like beasts whose majestic movements were reminiscent of Patronuses.
Walking the back paths of Franklin Park Zoo after the zoo’s closure is a bit of an eerie experience, but most of the creatures have luminous features so you will see them long before you approach them. This is not a haunted-house style walk, nothing jumps out at you, but rather an interactive journey through an evening at The Midnight Zoo. The experience is recommended for children ages 6+ and I think that is a fair recommendation (though younger kids might be a little frightened at some of the more thrilling aspects of the adventure).
The puppets are sublime. They are colorful, incorporate light and sound in interesting ways, and actually look like real creatures rather than some comic book-y cartoonish drawing of a creature. Perhaps most incredibly, each puppet has been carefully engineered to move realistically in a way that shows something about the beast’s character. These characters are fascinating, and I wish I could have stared at each one for much longer than I was able to. The night I caught the performance, it was rainy and cold and, thereby, the group I walked the trail with was quite small. I believe larger groups will have a bit more opportunity to linger at each puppet station. The performers who enact various roles from guides on the trail to guardians of the zoo to keepers of the beasts are all dedicated and full of energy. Even with the foul weather accompanying my visit to the zoo, these performers were giving their all to make sure that guests had the most engaged and entertaining experience.
Prepare to engage. The Midnight Zoo is an interactive experience and you will be asked questions by the performers and given small tasks to do along your way. The trail is by far more fun if you come with a willingness to participate.
One thing Franklin Park might consider is better signage leading up to the zoo. Since The Midnight Zoo is open when the regular zoo is closed, getting to the trail is a bit of a guessing game. There are no lights or obvious signs to guide you (though we did spot a few helpful security guards in their lit-up vehicles, probably for this very reason). Guests should park by the Giraffe gate and enter through there. Also note: entrance to The Midnight Zoo will not garner you entrance to attractions or exhibits at the zoo proper since, as I have mentioned, those will be closed during your visit.
Take your family. Take your friends. Get a group together and dress up in funny explorer costumes. The Midnight Zoo is a real treat, and definitely not to be missed