I admit, I have a soft spot for Pippi Longstocking. I used to daydream that I had her superhero strength, boldness and no adults to ruin all the fun. Pippi had the same effect on my kids, ages 4 and 6, as they laughed at her antics in a recent musical production at Youth Theatre Northwest in Mercer Island.
Set in a little town in Sweden, the production features a cast of 32 Eastside youth, ranging in age from 8 to 16. The spunky and endearing 12-year-old Amilia Shaw played the part of Pippi at our show. From the moment she cartwheels through saying her incredibly long name (Pippilotta Delicatessa Windowshade Mackrelmint Ephraim's Daughter Longstocking), the audience is on board with her.
Pippi's brave nature and winning smile carry her through several adventures in the play: Challenging and beating a strongman at the circus, fending off police officers and welfare agents with slapstick comedy, and making new friends who can't bear to see her leave when her pirate papa returns. She gives school and formal tea parties a try. That doesn't work out so well. Yet when it comes time for Pippi to part ways with the townsfolk, we realize how much effect she has on them. Even those menacing police officers will miss her unusual presence.
The beloved characters from the original books are there: Mr. Nilsson the monkey, Pippi's horse and her next-door neighbors, Annika and Tommy. A talented orchestra plays piano, flute, keyboard, trombone and percussion, which is a nice touch. Kudos should also be given to the production team, who keep the kids unified and working well together.
Pippi Longstocking is recommended for children ages 3 and older, and there were several young kids in attendance that night who were perfectly engaged. My kids enjoyed the show, especially when Pippi exhibits her brawn, and the part where she buries her face in a cake at the tea party.
The play has two acts and a 15-minute intermission. If you plan to attend, bring along some cash and treat the kids to some yummy snacks before settling in for the second act. Also, if your children want a close, unobstructed view, the theatre has a few rows without chairs at the front of the theatre just for young people.
After the show, the cast takes a few questions from the audience (we learned that the cake tasted good and the team rehearsed for six weeks in preparation for the show). Then, they journey out to the lobby to greet people. My daughter couldn't wait to meet Pippi and my son was incredulous that the towering Captain Longstocking, Pippi's dad, was only 15 years old. I was particularly impressed with how cordial and attentive the cast was after the show.
If you want to take in this show with your kids, get your tickets soon; Pippi Longstocking is only in town one more weekend and the matinees are already sold out.
IF YOU GO
Where: Youth Theatre Northwest, 8805 S.E. 40th St., Mercer Island.
When: Friday, Nov. 19, at 7 p.m. and Saturday, Nov. 20, at 7 p.m. (The Saturday and Sunday matinees are sold out).
Cost: $15 for adults and $13 for children and seniors.
Contact: www.youththeatre.org or 206-232-4145.
Taryn Zier is a freelance writer based in Lake Forest Park and mother of two children, ages 4 and 6.