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‘Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!’ is great fun at Seattle Children’s Theatre

The Mo Willems classic is on stage through May 22.

Seattle Children’s Theatre presents “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! The Musical!” by beloved author and playwright Mo Willems.

Willems’ books are classic, fun and easy reading material found in many homes, libraries and schools. It’s one of the first books my children picked up when they were toddlers. We’ve read practically all the Willems books from the Pigeon books to Elephant and Piggie to Knufflebunny, loving every bit of the laughter and joy they brought (and still bring) as Willems’ characters learn life lessons. This play was no different.

Here are six reasons to go see “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!” at Seattle’s Children’s Theatre. See it before it’s too late. Maybe take the bus!

The set at the theatre. The question at the end- Can I drive the plane?

The story

If you’re not familiar with the book, the story is pretty simple: Pigeon really wants to drive a bus. He finds himself in a situation where he might be able to when the bus driver has an emergency. Pigeon banters with the bus driver and three passengers, trying to convince them that he can do it. The characters interact in a hilarious way with one another and the audience. By the end, the children are singing, flapping, clapping and dancing with Pigeon.

Lesson learned

For the older crowd, there’s an overarching theme about finding what you’re good at and honing in on those skills. This is a little complex to think about for a toddler or elementary-aged child, but it was a discussion that we had on the ride home. It sparked some thoughts about discovering our own talents and how we should hone our own innate abilities.

Great for kids of all ages (adults too!)

The production is aimed at a preschool crowd, and I have to admit that I was hesitant taking my 8- and 10-year-old boys. But they loved it. Both my kids laughed and bounced in their seats through the snappy tunes and all the dialogue between Pigeon and characters on stage. Adults: You’ll have a good time, too! There’s so much joy, it’s hard not to smile from ear to ear throughout the play.

My youngest son found parts of the play a little loud. Singing voices and music carry well in the theater and we recommend headphones to help with the noise. There’s also a quiet room in the back for breaks during the hourlong program (there is no intermission).

Lauren Davis delivers on the sound effects in this Willems classic story, Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus

Special effects and familiar characters

My kids asked about the illusions on the stage (hint: disappearing hot dogs) and whispered to each other about the homage to other Willems books and characters. They asked before the show, “How are they going to fit a short book into an hourlong play?” and figured out that there was a lot more to the story than they initially read.

The cast react to the Pigeon's banter in the play.

The cast

The players on stage are phenomenal. All six cast members are from the Kennedy Center Theatre for young audiences. Carl Williams (cast member of the show that we watched) and Sylvern Groomes Jr. play the Pigeon and wield the pigeon puppet beautifully and in comic fashion. You’ll see the cast member flying around the stage with the Pigeon puppet, but eventually it felt like he was an extension of the character.

Debora Crabbe is the bus driver and has a smashing voice. Live sound effects for the bus engine and the character portrayal of duck are made by Lauren Davis (she pops up on stage through a side window to make the bus noises). Davis’ bus engine effects are so memorable that my boys still mimic the sounds and motions at least once a day.

The three passengers on the bus play an important part in building the story. Caroline Dubberly plays a little old lady on her way to visit her granddaughter. Keith Richards plays a businessman (and a hot dog vendor) who is rushing to a meeting and can’t be late. Nigel Rowe plays a teenager boarding the bus in a hurry to his destination. All three characters advise the Pigeon, telling him why he can’t drive the bus.

Nigel Rowe belts out a line before getting on the bus.

Music

Jazzy tunes throughout the play will have your little one dancing in their seat. Fingers snapping and toes tapping, kids belt out the choruses to the zippy songs. The music made the play interactive and helps connect the audience to each character, especially Pigeon. My kids had picked up bits and pieces of the songs and were singing the lyrics in the car all the way home.

This is a great play to start with young theater-goers and an entertaining story that will keep your kids at the edge of their seat, dancing and singing.

Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus at Seattle Children's Theatre

Know before you go:

  • The show runs through May 22, with a variety of showtimes: morning, afternoon and evening.
  • Seattle Children’s Theatre location: 201 Thomas Street, Seattle 98109
  • Head out early to find street or garage parking. If an event is happening at Climate Pledge Arena, allot an extra amount of time.
  • Seattle Children’s Theatre asks for proof of vaccination or proof of a negative test for everyone 5 and above. All patrons over age 2 must wear a mask.
  • It used to be that after the play, cast members visited with children on stage. We didn’t see this happening at the time we visited.
  • Paper programs are not available, so if you’re interested in learning more about the play and cast, visit the SCT website for a program and audience guide.
  • New for 2022: Digital ticketing. Purchase tickets online and print your ticket or show the barcode for entry on your phone’s screen. Box office purchase and pickup is still available, too.
  • Seattle Children’s Theatre is running at full capacity.

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Published April 28, 2022

About the Author

Jasmin Thankachen

Jasmin is an Eastside mom of two boys and enjoys parenting with lots of love and laughter. Co-Founder of PopUp StoryWalk, she also loves children's picture books, essay writing, and community stories.