The wonderful thing about musicals is that musicals are wonderful things.
I attended the opening night of Winnie the Pooh: The New Musical Adaptation in New York City and I’d be lying if I didn’t shed a tear within the first minute of it starting. When the stage lights turn on, adults are hit with an instant wave of nostalgia and kids get a first glimpse at the magic.
Winnie the Pooh has played a role in kids’ hearts for nearly 100 years and this musical understands that. It doesn’t try to change the story, but simply embraces the adventure, friendship, and imagination that comes along with the Hundred Acre Wood.
Developed and presented by Jonathan Rockefeller (also known for The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show and Paddington Gets in a Jam), Winnie the Pooh takes on a story of Pooh looking for honey while Christopher Robin is away at school. It sounds simple enough, but it is Pooh after all, so hijinks ensue and friends make the adventure profound.
The musical features lifesize puppets to tell the tale. Each is beautifully designed to look like the old-fashioned characters most of us grew up with. The detailed puppets simultaneously seem like plush toys and also real beings with lifelike movements.
Jake Bazel stars as Pooh; Chris Palmieri as Tigger; Kirsty Moon and Kristina Dizon alternate the roles of Piglet, Roo, and Kanga; and Emmanuel Elpenord plays Eeyore, Rabbit, and Owl. The role of Christopher Robin (the only non-puppet in the show) is shared by Kaydn Kuioka, Max Lamberg, and Cooper Lantz.
Each actor’s facial expressions mimic their characters, which makes it so they both blend in seamlessly but also add something extra to the show. Their voices match your childhood memories of the characters, with all of the “woo-hoo-hoos” and “oh, bothers” sounding exactly like you may remember. The music also brings back memories with the Sherman Brothers’ Grammy-Award-winning music and songs from A.A. Milne.
Small details are what make this musical stand out. As the story moves on, the seasons change and so do the surprises (I won’t ruin them!). The 4D effects enhance the experience to make it all the more magical. Parents will also be happy to know that it runs 65 minutes without an intermission, meaning it’s just the right amount of time to keep kids captivated.
Tickets are available now at winniethepoohshow.com. The show is currently only running in the Hundred Acre Wood Theater in New York City, but there are plans for it to expand to other states, Canada, the U.K., Europe, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. Talk about an adventure!