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Winnie the Pooh

  • Theater, Musicals
  • Theatre Row, Hell's Kitchen
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
Winnie the Pooh: The New Musical Adaptation
Photograph: Courtesy Matthew MurphyWinnie the Pooh: The New Musical Adaptation

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Winnie the Pooh bears up enchantingly.

Theater review by Raven Snook 

I don't typically consult preschoolers when I’m writing reviews, but I did take note of my 3-year-old theater companion’s reactions throughout the new stage adaptation of Disney’s Winnie the Pooh franchise. (Full disclosure: She is my grandniece.) I was consistently enchanted by the show's low-tech magic—eye-popping puppets, blooming fake flowers, hills covered in literal blankets of snow—and by its gentle lessons about friendship, teamwork and the importance of fun. But what about Winnie the Pooh’s target demo? To judge from the rapt expressions of my date and her slightly older peers, they were as delighted as little bears in honey pots.

Puppet mastermind Jonathan Rockefeller, who wrote and directed the show as well as designed the plush protagonists, is a whiz at translating kiddie classics into sumptuous stage fare; his previous projects include The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show and Paddington Gets in a Jam. The House of Mouse’s paw prints are visible: This is not the Pooh of A.A. Milne's original 1920s storybooks, but of the animated films that the entertainment conglomerate has been releasing for decades. Pooh and his pals in the colorful Hundred Acre Wood look like they’ve just been sprung from a Disney cel, and they sound like that, too, with puppeteer Jake Bazel doing an especially impressive job of aping Pooh's distinctive soothing, perpetually befuddled voice.

Like most of Pooh's Disney adventures, the show is structured as a series of amusing vignettes. Each section takes place during a different season, and all of the songs and some of the stories are lifted from the movies: Pooh gets stuck while binge eating, Tigger teaches Roo to bounce, Piglet face-plants on the ground. For those who grew up watching the films, the musical numbers—especially those by the Sherman Brothers (such as "The Blustery Day" and "The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers")—will spark fuzzy nostalgia. The puppeteers are visible as they manipulate their life-size anthropomorphic animal characters, but their body language and facial expressions add to their performances, particularly Emmanuel Elpenord’s turn as the hilariously depressive Eeyore. (The lone human character, Pooh's friend Christopher Robin, is essentially a cameo role.) 

Parents should be wary of the pricey toys and post-show photo ops, but Winnie the Pooh is otherwise a charmer. Because of the pandemic and lack (until now) of vaccines for those under age 12, theater for young audiences has been in short supply, even since in-person performances resumed. How wonderful that many families' first show back can be one that’s so utterly winsome. 

Winnie the Pooh. Theatre Row (Off Broadway).  By Jonathan Rockefeller and Jake Bazel. Music and lyrics by the Sherman Brothers and others. Directed by Rockefeller. Running time: 1hr 5mins. No intermission.

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Written by
Raven Snook


Theatre Row
410 W 42nd St
New York
Cross street:
at Ninth Ave
Subway: A, C, E to 42nd St–Port Authority

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