This was a show that brought me joy after a devastating & personal Loss.
As many of you who follow my social media may know, last Friday I had the pleasure of attending the Australian Tour of Disney's Winnie the Pooh. This new musical stage adaptation was produced by Rockerfeller productions at the Powerhouse Museum in Brisbane.
Winnie the Pooh has a special place in my heart, ever since I was a child. I first fell in love with the classic A.A. Milne stories after watching the animated film "The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh" produced Walt Disney, and directed by Wolfgang Reitherman & John Lounsbery, in 1977. Later on, during the late 80s and early 90s, I watched "The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh" every Saturday morning on a program called Saturday Morning Disney, alongside other beloved shows such as Ducktales, Gummi Bears, Tailspin, Darkwing Duck and Chip & Dale Rescue Rangers.
As a resident of Australia, I often find myself discovering new musicals and stage shows through social media – mainly Instagram – as they tour across the US & UK. As an Australian resident, I often find myself wishing that I had the means to travel overseas to experience these shows firsthand. It's a pity that some tours never reach this part of the world, and even worse, some don't come to Queensland at all.
So, you can imagine how ecstatic I was when my wife told me that Winnie the Pooh was finally coming down under. We managed to scrape together enough money for me to see it, despite recently spending $600 – including ticket costs – to attend 2:22 A Ghost Story in Melbourne on July 27, another show am eagerly anticipating as its not coming to Queensland.
After experiencing a difficult & personal loss last month, I found solace this show. It not only lifted my spirits, but also brought back memories of the movie and t.v. series from my childhood, and stories from the books I've fallen in love with again as an adult.
Leave it to a bear of very little brain to inspire & bring you joy, when you just want to feel as gloomy as Eeyore.
I believe Jonathan Rockefeller, with contributions from Jake Bazel, has successfully targeted the perfect audience with his writing. This play appeals to those who grew up watching Winnie the Pooh's animated film and TV series, and would like to share the same magic with their children. The scenes of Autumn, Winter, Spring & Summer move at a brisk pace, and I couldn't help but feel nostalgic and childlike as the performers/puppeteers played make-believe with "their" toys, just like Christopher Robin.
While I recommend this show for children aged 5 and above, it ultimately depends on their attention span.
A large portion of the music and songs are original compositions by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman who were the individuals that wrote most of the music for the Winnie the Pooh franchise. "The Wonderful thing about Tiggers" still goes down treat as I could hear some parents sing along with it, including myself.
Additionally, a new orchestral score has been included to pay tribute to the vast history of Pooh Bear experiences brought to us by Disney.
The set design of the show was both simple and delightful to look at, as it transported me to a secret corner of the Hundred Acre Woods where Christopher Robin and his friends play. There were many elements from both the Disney films and books, including a honey tree.
The stars of the show were the puppets, which were designed and constructed by Rockefeller Productions and were inspired by the original Disney character designs, E.H. Shepard's original illustrations, and Christopher Robin's real-life playmates.
The performers / puppeteers were dressed in a whimsical variety of ombre jumpsuits, painter trousers, and coverall combinations, which helped to keep the focus on the puppets while still treating the performers / puppeteers as if they were part of Christopher Robin's imagination. Everyone onstage appeared to be having fun playing with their particular parts, just like children playing with toys, which made this an absolute joy to watch.
For me, the most challenging aspect of Winnie the Pooh was accepting any voice other than Sterling Holloway or Jim Cummings for the character. Dont get me wrong I enjoyed each of the performers vocal performances & interpretations in this show, but even when I revisit the original stories or read Benjamin Hoff's self-help book, "The Tao of Winnie the Pooh," I can't help but hear their iconic interpretation of Pooh Bear's voice.
This was definitely a much needed cup of tea with at least two spoons of honey added. If you're looking to share a beloved fairytale from the 20th century with your children or simply want to indulge your inner child before tackling the stresses of daily life, then this show is an absolute must-see. For an extra special experience, consider purchasing a VIB pass (Very Important Bear) which allows for on-stage interaction with your childhood friends. I was pleasantly surprised to discover this little-known perk – I had assumed it was only for priority seating!
Winnie the Pooh can next be seen at the Playhouse, at the Sydney Opera House from 19th - 23rd July before it then heads to Tasmania, South Australia, Perth, Canberra and other regional areas of the Australia. You can find the tour dates by clicking here!
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