The production knits together three adventures that see Pooh and his band of friends get into mild scrapes while waiting for Christopher Robin to return from school. It also features Sherman Brothers ditties including “The Blustery Day,” “The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers” and “Whoop-De-Dooper Bounce”.
The stories take us through the seasons, marked by flying leaves and snow (and also facilitating an unexpected Game of Thrones reference when Pooh announces “winter is coming”). There is kite-flying, vegetable patches, and of course honey aplenty, all presented with the gentle whimsy that is so central to the world of Pooh.
Characters are half life-sized; they resemble large stuffed toys, puppeteered by hands and feet. It’s like the (mandatory) merchandise stall in the foyer has come to life. The puppets, designed by a team at Rockefeller Productions, steered by creator-director Jonathan Rockefeller, capture the sense of beloved raggedy toys.
Key to the show’s charm is the performance of longstanding star Jake Bazel, who created the role in New York and gives a note-perfect delivery of Pooh’s melodic, southern drawl. He is supported by an able ensemble of actor-puppeteers who also bring impressive vocal life to the likes of Eeyore, Owl, Tigger, Kanga, Roo, Rabbit and Piglet. Although the mix of American and English accents may jar for some, it seems a suitable nod to both Milne and Disney.
I’ve never in truth been a huge Pooh aficionado, finding its nostalgic world a little too remote and saccharine for my palate. But I recognise a well-crafted homage when I see it, and in a theatre landscape awash with productions based on kids’ TV shows, this feels refreshingly aligned with its literary roots, a show that truly spans the generations.
Some of its stand-out moments are also its quietest. The selection of Pooh’s famous ‘hums’ (scored by Nate Edmondson), Eeyore stopping to admire a butterfly, or Christopher Robin – when he finally gets back from school – embracing his imaginary creation. Although it may not leave you rolling in the aisles, it should certainly help you shed the last vestiges of winter blues. Right now we could all do with a little more Pooh.