Performing Arts: Theater
October 16, 2016
The New Victory Theater is currently presenting Kenny Wax Family Entertainment’s and TC Beech’s production of Mr. Popper’s Penguins, originating in the UK, in its US premiere.

This 55 minute production geared for children ages 4-7, is based on the popular novel by Richard and Florence Atwater, (first published in 1938) and features a British cast of four: Russell Morton as Mr. Popper, Roxanne Palmer as Mrs. Popper, Lucy Grattan, as Greta and as Admiral Drake, and Tony Manley as Mr. Greenbaum and Captain Cook.

The story opens in Mr. and Mrs. Popper’s living room, depicting a very ordinary couple living in the ordinary town of Stillwater, where everything happens predictably each day. Mr. Popper, a house painter in the town, fantasizes through song and stage antics of far away lands, especially Antarctica (as far away from Stillwater as one could get). During his typical day, he paints the town with various colors, (emanating from his paint can), and his favorite color “white” reminds him of the snow and ice of this south pole continent.

Magically, Mr. Popper’s wishes are granted when he is soon surprised with a special delivery from Admiral Drake, a famous Antarctic explorer, and when the crate is opened, a live penguin (puppet) arrives and begins to turn the ordinary Popper household topsy turvy as the couple learns how to “parent” this wild penguin, named “Captain Cook,” and integrate its irrational squawking sounds and behaviors into family and town life.

The story continues as another penguin “Greta,” is sent to comfort and partner the lonely Captain Cook. Eventually, many baby penguins are born. The Poppers learn how to organize this family of penguins into a popular stage show that not only brings in income, but transforms the couple into entertainers and creative artists training their brood of birds.

But, alas, the show closes, and the Poppers must decide whether to return the penguins to their homeland and go back to their humdrum existence… or accompany them back to Antarctica-- changing their lives forever, following Mr. Popper’s dream. You can guess.

The four cast members are kept on their toes throughout this entire production, changing costumes frequently as they change characters, as well as manipulating the clever staging and choreography for the two main penguins and the many baby penguins during the stage show. Penguins turn somersaults, balance on balls, climb ladders and cavort on teeter totters in playful orchestration.

As the show ends and the Popper family is transported on a ship to the south continent, ice machines placed high above in the theater shower “real” snow onto the delighted children below for a final transforming effect. The final song To Be a Proper Penguin brings the audience to its feet, as it mimics and responds to the calls and dance moves the cast suggests from the stage. A delightful end!
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Mary Seidman

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