Adapted by Betty Knapp, with revisions by Kim Selody. A Carousel Theatre for Young People production, in association with Presentation House Theatre. At the Waterfront Theatre on February 29. Continues until March 29
As the world continues to rapidly change, one thing that remains timeless is the loving bond between Christopher Robin and his bear, Winnie-the-Pooh. Their friendship is universally loved because it celebrates the curious, inquisitive nature of childhood and the unrestrained imagination that accompanies it. Carousel Theatre for Young People’s production of The House at Pooh Corner is a tender tribute to the beloved Winnie-the-Pooh stories, and provides young audience members with the unique opportunity to experience these stories firsthand from the perspective of Christopher Robin.
Shizuka Kai’s set takes us into Christopher Robin’s bedroom, where giant rugs cover and even drape over the edge of the stage. Stuffed animals placed around the room soon come to life as Pooh and his gang of friends, including Piglet, Tigger, Eeyore, Rabbit, and Roo. Three actor-puppeteers—Tom Pickett, Victor Mariano, and Advah Soudack—move the animals around the stage and portray the characters with charming personality.
The show is set on the day before Christopher Robin has to begin school—the final day he can enjoy complete childhood innocence and freedom. There’s just one problem: Christopher Robin is nowhere to be found. The characters urgently call out into the audience for Christopher Robin—and they find him in the form of an audience member who is invited to come on-stage and step into the role. But for other kids who would also like to play Christopher Robin, there’s no need to worry—throughout the show, the cast will frequently invite kids to come up and take a turn.
Pickett portrays A.A. Milne, the author of the Winnie-the-Pooh stories, and he also plays puppetmaster to Pooh. Pickett carries himself with a wise presence appropriate to the character of Milne, as well as to Pooh, who always has a thoughtful explanation for his actions.
Mariano and Soudack operate a number of Pooh’s friends, and Mariano really shines as Tigger, capturing the tiger’s rambunctiousness with his abundant energy. Soudack is especially enjoyable in her portrayal of Eeyore, bringing the down-on-his-luck donkey to life with her entertainingly expressive vocals.
Director Kim Selody has cleverly found ways to make the show a highly interactive experience. In addition to coming on-stage to play Christopher Robin, children in the audience get to help out with a scene change. And at one point during the production, they get to assist Tigger and Rabbit make their way out of the woods, as the stuffed animals are passed through the audience.
But for audience members who prefer to quietly enjoy the show on their own, the cast makes a point of letting us know that there’s no pressure to join in.
Fun and games aside, the production is a vivid celebration of childhood wonder and delivers some very positive messages. Through stories that involve such challenges as helping Eeyore find his house after it gets blown away and helping Tigger and Roo get down from a tree, The House at Pooh Corner illustrates the importance of teamwork, problem-solving, patience, kindness, and friendship—a message that thankfully remains timeless, like Milne’s story of a boy and his bear.