This bear of very little brain is full of heart. Julie Hosking goes on a romp through the seasons with Winnie the Pooh and friends.
Winnie the Pooh, TEG Life Like Touring & Rockefeller Productions
Regal Theatre, 1 September 2023
My first thought as our favourite honey-loving bear makes his way onto stage – and into the Hundred Acre Wood – is how hard it must be on the back of the human manipulating Winnie the Pooh’s movements from behind.
The children in the audience clearly have no such concerns, their little ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ echoing through Regal Theatre with delight.
And this musical adaptation of A.A Milne’s timeless stories is quite delightful, in no small part due to the humans, or actors, doing the heavy lifting – for they provide the voices and the heart as well as the movement of the beloved characters.
Pooh (Alex Joy) begins his quest for a smackeral of honey, long-suffering best friend Piglet (Rebekah Head, who also plays Roo) in tow. He spies some up in a tree and enlists Piglet’s help, destroying Eeyore’s makeshift home. The famously morose donkey (Andrew McDougall, who also plays Rabbit and Owl) delivers an hilarious deadpan: “I’m just here spreading some cheer.” No small feat for a puppet.
Being a “bear with little brain”, Pooh is easily distracted, in this case by the coming of Winter, who he decides is a person. Owl is not one to show a lack of wisdom and points to a snowman in a hat as the likely “Mrs Winter”. With the arrival of the enthusiastic Tigger (Jake Waterworth), he decides the reason “she’s a bit non-responsical” is because she’s cold. When he threatens to add Pooh’s scarf to poor Piglet’s already wrapping the snowman, Pooh suggests they all move her inside “near the fire”.
And on the sweet nonsense goes through the seasons, Pooh still searching for his honey and longing for the return of Christopher Robin (“who knows how long school is,” Tigger says). The sheningans will be familiar to lovers of the books and Disney movies, including Tigger and Roo turning poor Rabbit’s vegetable garden into a bouncing patch, and Pooh landing in a rather sticky situation.
It’s a great credit to all the actors that they become one with their puppets. The voices are spot on, the tone just right and the joy infectious.
The Hundred Acre Wood set is simple but effective and the songs, though rather light on for a true musical, are clearly a big hit, none more so than Tigger’s signature The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers.
Winnie the Pooh is a wonderful way to spend an hour with the little people in your life. It’s sweet, silly and warm – just like the beloved bear.
Pictured top: Pooh (Alex Joy) and Piglet (Rebekah Head) meet ‘Mrs Winter’ in ‘Winnie the Pooh’. Photo supplied
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