Amazon Adventures


Things aren't as they seem!

Rainbow Puppet Productions invites you to join them for "Amazon Adventures" as the company presents its newest musical production.   It's a surprise-filled trip down the Amazon river featuring ten new musical numbers. 

Meet Montee, the Waxy Monkey Tree Frog.  He serves as your tour guide and is quick to explain, he is not made of wax and he is not a monkey.  Things are never as they seem in the Amazon.  The croaking frog in the distance is actually a Toucan.  The lion you meet is only a foot tall.  That giant cat is not a cat at all but a fish, rumored to swallow a man whole. 

 While audience participation has always been a hallmark of Rainbow's programs, it's never been more pronounced than in "Amazon Adventures."  Do a line dance with Eel-lo the Electric Eel.  Do the twist with King, the Golden Lion Tamarin.  And join the Carnival as everyone is invited to join the grand finale.

"People who have followed our work will hear a distinct difference in this program," says show composer, writer and director David Messick.  "Much of the music sounds like it comes from the mid-sixties or earlier.  The sting ray perform to a song reminiscent of great car songs of the sixties.  The Anaconda and Lion Tamarin song could have been originally sung by the Coasters or other great comic doo-wop groups.  And out of the blue, the Toucan and Caiman sing and dance to a song that feels like something out of one of the great MGM musicals of the forties.  Somehow it all seems to work out."

The show was created by David Messick.  His other credits include producing voices and characters for Chuck E. Cheese.  He has worked on development projects for the Disney Channel, FOX TV, and Paramount Pictures.  He has also worked with such legendary performers as Mickey Rooney, Carol Channing, and at the New Orleans World’s Fair with the late Jim Henson.

Puppets for this production were built by master puppet makers across the east coast including Hampton's own Laura Huff and Norfolk's Craig T. Adams.  Laura built many of the dinosaurs for Rainbow's "Really Big Dinosaur Show" and Craig is known for his work television's cult favorite Dr. Madblood.  How appropriate that he built the Vampire Bats and Piranha for this program.  From Florida, Frank Lakus created the Waxy Monkey Tree Frog and the Caiman and from Pittsburgh, Jill Harrington built neon fish and talking grass.

Meet the cast

 The voice of Montee is provided by two-time Tony Award winning talent Geoffrey Holder.  A world acclaimed painter, dancer, and choreographer.  He is perhaps best known for television and movie appearances and for his booming voice.  Mr. Holder was a towering presence in the James Bond movie “Live and Let Die,” as Punjab in the movie “Annie,” and more recently, as the narrator for Johnny Depp’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” 

Vocal talent includes brother's Michael and Moby Lemelle creating voices that would have made the original Coasters proud.  Cynthia Tademy appears as Katt, the giant and quite hungry catfish.  Rainbow veteran Tim Tharrington sings "Sting Ray."  Kara Dennison, of anime fame, is the singing Toucan.  A rare cameo comes from 94-year-old Meinhardt Raabe, the coroner munchkin from the movie "The Wizard of Oz."  In this production, his character swirls in on a tornado-like funnel of fish and devour everything in sight.Rainbow's sound engineer Steve Scheffler doubles as the voice of the singing Caiman.  

Rainbow's puppeteer James Cooper serves double duty as arranger and all the voices for Eel-lo and the Electrics who sing "Eel Glide."  

Production history

"Amazon Adventures" opened as the first performance at the Virginia Living Museum's new amphitheater.   It has since been performed at museums across the east coast.

Amazon Adventures Highlights

Legendary Broadway Actor and Movie Actor Geoffrey Holder narrates our "Amazon Adventures."

The Really Big Dinosaur Show


It's Really Big!

Imagine the bones and fossils of ancient dinosaurs could come back to life — what stories they might tell. Well, there’s no need to imagine any more as Rainbow Puppet Productions presents "The Really Big Dinosaur Show." 

Through original songs and the use of over twenty giant puppets, the time of the dinosaurs appears on stage. The program features an eight-foot-tall T-Rex and another dinosaur that’s over 16 feet long. (It’s not called "The Really Big Dinosaur Show" for nothing!)

The program was created by the same team that produced "The Amazing Adventures of Chessie the Manatee." The original music and script are by David Messick. Giant puppets were created by Frank Lakus of Tampa, Florida as well as Virginia artists Laura Huff, Helen Spaetzel, Christine Frank, and Kathie Davis.

The show is one of our most popular and after a 103-performance run at the Virginia Living Museum, it's ready to tour to your location.  What's more, we've added more audience interaction!  We actually take puppets into the audience and then bring selected audience members onstage to perform as members of the cast.  And, of course, everyone gets to join in the grand finale... dancing the Dinosaur Hop!  It's our most popular song and by far the most down-loaded song by dinosaur-lovers around the world. 

And it's everywhere!

 "The Really Big Dinosaur Show" has performed in New York City at the American Museum of Natural History.  That's where our friend Mickey Rooney made "Night in a Museum."  We've also taken the show to the Schiele Museum in North Carolina, the Roper Science Museum in South Carolina, and, of course, the Virginia Living Museum. If you are looking for STEM education programs or a dinosaur puppet show... we'll fill the bill!

Dinosaur Highlights

One of the most memorable stars of "The Really Big Dinosaur Show" is Pierre, the Parasaurolophus.  Below, you can see him singing his signature song.

See Us Fly! The Wright Brothers


Power! Lift! Control!

Everything's right with . . .The Wright Brothers a new musical by David Messick Experience the thrill of man’s first powered flight as Rainbow Puppet Productions presents "The Wright Brothers."

The show was originally developed with the Virginia Aviation Museum in Richmond, Virginia. Rainbow worked closely with the staff to ensure the program is technically and historically correct.

"We will follow the brothers from early childhood until the moment they make their first powered flight in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina," said show creator David Messick. "It’s such a wonderful story with an important lesson even today. Orville and Wilbur were successful because they grew up in an environment that valued and encouraged reading and they had great faith in their own abilities."

The show has been presented in Washington, D.C. for aviation museum directors from around the world and it's been kid-tested in tours of libraries including one just a block from where the Wright's completed their first successful powered flight.

Audience and Educator Tested

The program was presented for Aviation Museum Curators from around the world as they gathered in Washington D. C,  It was presented in 2003 only yards from where the Wright Brothers originally flew. Plus:

  • Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
  • Wolftrap, the National Park for the Arts
  • The Virginia Aviation Museum
  • The Virginia Air and Space Center
  • National Aviation Museum Curators
  • Kitty Hawk, in sight of where the Wright Brothers first flew
  • Countless libraries, museums, and schools

Take a Giant Leap!


From star gazing to a Mission to Mars

Since before the dawn of human history, people have looked to the heavens and let their imaginations run free and that's the starting point of "Take a Giant Leap."  We look to the sky and imagine we see a lion, a bear, a rabbit, a giant butterfly, and soon those imagined creatures come to life... singing original songs and encouraging the audience to join along in dance.

As the show progresses, we go from looking into the sky to actually flying in the sky, first in airplanes and then in rocket ships that take us into space.  The highlight of the show is a five-foot-tall astronaut puppet landing on the moon and then encouraging us to take a giant leap... perhaps one day to Mars.

Created for the Smithsonian and the Department of Education

"Take a Giant Leap" premiered at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum working in cooperation with the Department of Education's "Let's Read!  Let's Move!" event.  Opening day performances included appearances with Miss America and award-winning chef Carla Hall.

Two Versions

We can present this as a 20-minute program that can be shown numerous times in a day.  This is perfect for museums and outdoor events.  A 45-minute version includes the Wright Brothers explaining how they overcame power, lift, and control to bring us powered flight.  This is followed by the Tuskegee Airmen celebrating their exploits in Italy.

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The Amazing Adventures of Chessie the Manatee


He's Back in the Bay!

There’s a giant manatee, a wisecracking seagull, a huge Sand Tiger Shark and more in Rainbow’s most ambitious project to date. "The Amazing Adventures of Chessie the Manatee" is a fast-paced program featuring songs, dance and delightful effects. It’s all presented in bunraku, a Japanese-style of puppetry where puppeteers are completely visible while manipulating large puppets — some almost five feet in length!   

The show represents a unique collaboration between Rainbow Productions, the Virginia Aquarium and Young Audiences of Virginia. The aquarium is one of the top ten attended marine science and aquarium facilities in the country. For 50 years, Young Audiences of Virginia has been educating children in the state through the performing arts.   "The show is a true blend of art and science. Its multidisciplinary aspect crosses all curriculum and many grade levels," says Lynn Clements, the aquarium's director. "Children can learn about the Bay animals and their habitats, as well as an important conservation message."   

It’s based on the true story of Chessie, the Florida manatee who wandered into the Chesapeake Bay. In this story, he meets Seemore D. Bay, a seagull who leads Chessie on a tour. The play features over forty puppets including a bottle nose dolphin, a loggerhead turtle, star fish, a school of Lookdown fish, sea horses, moon jellies, blue crabs and more.

The musical score features ten new songs including Crabis the Blue Crab’s "I’m So Blue" and "There are Two Moons Out Tonight" which is performed by moon jelly puppets which glow in the dark.    Speaking of the songs, the stage voices were created by many Rainbow veterans. Tim Tharrington sings “I’m So Blue.” He was Hansel in Rainbow’s 1980 tour of “Hansel and Gretel” as well as a principal countless other Rainbow shows.   Other voices include wife and husband team Chris and Don Bartlett, Kenny D’Auria, and the late Frank Mailander as Percy the Brown Pelican.

According to Messick, “Frank was the first actor I recall seeing in a live theater production. I was maybe seven or eight at the time and he was hilarious. I was thrilled to later get to work with him on many of our productions… he’s considered something of a local comic legend so through pre-recording his work, it’s great to hear him onstage again in a really funny role.”