As we walked from the theater, I tried out several words to describe the show we just saw – delightful, charming, magical, cute. While those attributes are certainly accurate, my thirteen-year-old daughter summed it up best: "That show was fun!" Yes, that’s exactly it. Mr. Popper’s Penguins is a barrel of fun.
Adapted from the book by Richard and Florence Atwater, the show follows Mr. and Mrs. Popper as their lives are forever changed by the arrival of a penguin. The Poppers have spent their entire lives in the small town of Stillwater, but Mr. Popper has always dreamed of great adventures. He is especially interested in the South Pole. His letter to the explorer Admiral Drake results in a mysterious crate arriving at his door. Mr. Popper may not be able to explore Antarctica, but Drake sent a bit of Antarctica to Mr. Popper – a penguin.
Mr. Popper names the penguin Captain Cook after another explorer. After establishing some ground rules set by Mrs. Popper, the penguin settles in nicely. However, it isn’t long before they notice something is not quite right. After a brief moment of serious worry over the health of Captain Cook, a diagnosis of loneliness is made and quickly rectified by the arrival of a lonely penguin from the London Zoo. The new penguin, Greta, is added to the Popper household that is once again full of laughter and fun. Soon, however, the fun starts to overflow when Captain Cook & Greta become parents to eight penguin chicks. The adventures continue as the penguins must learn to perform on stage to earn their fish. Finally, Admirable Drake returns to bring the penguins back home to the South Pole, but the Poppers are invited along to share in the adventure as well.
The story of Mr. Popper’s Penguins has been well loved by children for generations. The story is touching and sweet as you witness the bond between the Poppers and the penguins grow. It is also full of great advice and insights. Before the first penguin arrives, Mr. Popper is reading a book about Antarctica. He says that a book is the next best thing to traveling there. Mrs. Popper offers a few reminders to her new house guest of the importance of being tidy and having table manners. Still, the best lesson of the show is the great rewards that are waiting for us when we open our hearts to new people (or penguins) and new adventures.
The show is actually a musical, and the songs blend seamlessly with the story. The songs are delivered in a simple manner and not overdone. They help set the tone and move the story along. However, the best part of adapting this book for the stage is the magic that happens when the penguins come to life. All four actors (MacLennan, Manley, Morton, and Palmer) work the penguin puppets and do it masterfully. Penguins truly are fun to watch, and the same is true of these puppet penguins. The antics and acrobatics are delightful, charming, magical, cute, and just plain fun.
Whether or not you are a fan of the book, Mr. Popper’s Penguins promises a great time for the whole family. Please note that families in the first eight to ten rows can expect to experience the effects of the snow cannons at the end of the show. Even if your child would prefer to avoid the snow, make sure you hang around to the very end when the cast teaches the audience how to do a penguin dance. Mr. Popper’s Penguins is sure to bring a smile to the faces of children, playful adults, and even some skeptical teens. Don’t miss this one!
IF YOU GO:
Where: Seattle Children’s Theatre, 201 Thomas Street, Seattle, WA 98109
When: Most shows Thursday-Sunday through Dec. 31, with some Wednesday shows. Show times vary, especially during winter break. See website for details.
Cost: Tickets $22-39 depending on show, some $18 rush tickets may be available one hour prior to showtime.
Contact: www.sct.org or 206-441-3322
Kelly Rogers Flynt is a freelance writer based out of Lake Forest Park. She and her family, including two teenage kids, prefer to keep their Antarctic adventures between the pages of a good book. Brrrrr!