Review: ‘Winnie the Pooh’ is ‘Magical’ and ‘Enchanting’ at the Hundred Acre Wood Theatre at Theatre Row

Curtain call at the final performance of "Winnie the Pooh" at the Hundred Acre Wood Theatre

By Blaise Buckley on 31 January 2022
  • Share

Nothing is more magical on a cold Sunday afternoon than visiting the Hundred Acre Wood.  That is precisely what my companion and I did, attending the new musical stage adaptation of “Winnie the Pooh” at Theatre Row for its closing performance.

The Disney characters have been transformed into life-size puppets for an hour-long adventure taking Pooh Bear on a yearlong search for honey. Puppetmaster Jonathan Rockefeller, who created “The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show” and “Paddington Gets Into a Jam,” wrote and directed “Winnie,” an adaptation not of the classic A.A. Milne storybooks of the 1920s but of the Disney animated films of more recent vintage.

With the Grammy Award-winning musical numbers we all know and love, including the classic “Winnie the Pooh” theme song and “The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers,” by the Sherman brothers as well as additional songs by A.A. Milne, this stage adaptation of the story of the “tubby little cubby all stuffed with fluff” is perfect for fans of all ages, as evidenced by the audience reaction the afternoon we were there.

The life-size puppets from Rockefeller Productions display many elements from E.H. Shepard’s original illustrations while Lindsay McWilliams’ costumes for the actor/puppeteers complement the puppets they control.

Entering the theater, the audience was enchanted by birds chirping and bees buzzing as they were transported to the Hundred Acre Wood. Indeed, the set design by David Goldstein makes one feel as if one has walked right into the storybook, with blooming fake flowers and hills covered in blankets of snow.

Pooh (Jake Bazel) feels a “rumbly“ in his “tumbly“ for, what else, honey and that is the basis of his year-long search for the golden nectar.  The show is presented as vignettes taking place over four seasons.   I was impressed how the show changed from season to season, taking the theatergoer along with it.  Each season had a different adventure, including playing in the “blankets” of snow, all of course part of Winnie’s quest for honey.

During the year long adventure with Pooh, the whole gang is intertwined in some way with puppeteers playing multiple characters, including Eeyore, Owl, and Rabbit (all Emmanuel Elephnord). Kirsty Moon and Kristina Dizon alternate in the roles of Piglet/Roo and Kanga.

Although he’s only on stage at the beginning and the very end, Kaydn Kuioka, Max Lamberg, and Cooper Lantz ably share the role of Christopher Robin.

Bazel has the Pooh Bear voice down to a T, while Chris Palmieri’s Tigger brings the loveable energy of the character to life. The theatergoer could be forgiven for thinking he had been listening to the original voice actors if the actors on stage weren’t so young.

The original musical stage adaptation has now completed its off-Broadway run, and is heading to Chicago for a limited eight-week run that starts in mid-March.

Oh, bother.

THE DETAILS

Winnie the Pooh
Limited engagement through January 30, 2022
Hundred Acre Wood Theatre at Theatre Row
In Chicago, March 15 through June 12, 2022
Mercury Theater Chicago
Running time: 65 minutes
www.winniethepoohshow.com

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

Accura News

Read previous post:
Nor’easter Brings Blizzard Conditions, Cancels Flights, Leaves Thousands Without Power

A potentially historic Nor’easter slammed a region stretching from the Mid-Atlantic to New England, bringing with it strong winds and...

Close