JAMIE LEVINE’S SHOW REVIEW: John Tartaglia’s ImaginOcean

This past weekend, my daughter and I and our good friends were fortunate enough to enjoy a matinee performance of ImaginOcean, a magical underwater musical that’s been making a splash off-Broadway. The brainchild of Tony and Emmy Award nominee John Tartaglia, a “Sesame Street” alumnus who portrayed Princeton/Rod in the original cast of Avenue Q, ImaginOcean is a one-of-a-kind black-light puppet show that’s full of surprises and special effects.

This 50-minute family show—which is just the right length for young children with short attention spans like my daughter—centers around three brightly-colored talking fish who, through the magic of black light puppetry, convincingly “swim” across the stage. Dorsel is the scaredy-cat of the group, Bubbles is the imaginative one, and Tank is the muscle; when these friends discover a treasure map together, they set off on a journey to find three clues and seek their fortune. Along the way, they encounter dancing jellyfish, a wise seahorse, and a goofy octopus, who help them face their fears and teach them about the true bonds of friendship.

Fairly forgettable musical numbers are weaved throughout the production, but more memorable is the message of the show, and the magic of the 3-D puppetry. With glow-in-the-dark bubbles bursting from the ceiling (and my daughter and her friend laughingly grabbing for them), compelling characters who talked to the audience and engaged the kids, and the fishes’ final discovery that friendship is the greatest treasure of all, this lively family adventure is full of clever insight and interactive fun.

Our kids left the show wearing friendship bracelets that touted “Ocean Friends Forever” and smiles on their faces—which is to say that our afternoon outing went swimmingly well.

ImaginOcean plays at New World Stages, 340 West 50th Street, New York, NY

Wednesday: 11:00 AM and 2:00 PM
Saturday: 11:00 AM, 2:00 PM, 4:30 PM
Sunday: 12 Noon and 3:00 PM