The ever-beloved, honey-filled bear has made his way to the UK along with all his friends as Disney’s Winnie the Pooh, a new musical stage adaptation by Jonathan Rockefeller, begins performances at Riverside Studios.

Credit: Pamela Raith

The classic characters are brought to life in this production through gorgeous puppetry which astounds even the knowing adults in the room. The audience is immediately embraced into the world of Winnie the Pooh through the magical set, and the sounds of the Hundred Acre Wood flowing through the theatre. The immersion of this production is very strong, which is ideal, especially to ensure excitement among the children in the audience. However, this is not just for kids, many adults were giggling with joy as their inner child came spilling out, seeing their childhood friends come to life. It’s a truly magical experience for all.

The show follows a year in the wood, as we go from Autumn to Summer. This is portrayed effectively through set changes, with white blankets to represent snow and falling leaves for Autumn. The world changes around you and a new adventure comes with each season, along with new friends.

Rockefeller’s book is very well written, filled with jokes which land well, causing laughter in both children and adults. Little references to TV shows get chuckles and most lines land with smoothness, and humour surrounding them. 

Jake Bazel is immaculate as Winnie the Pooh, he encapsulates the essence of Pooh, from his voice, his mannerisms, and his adorable stupidity. All of his lines land perfectly, and never become repetitive, even with the same joke being used many times. He brings the character to life and doesn’t leave the stage for most of the show, displaying unwavering stamina. Robbie Noonan is perfect as Tigger, truly embodying the character through the puppetry and his facial expressions. Each member of the cast displays impeccable voice work, aptly becoming the beloved characters. Their movements are also faultless, Noonan is a whirlwind on stage as Tigger. A quick favourite is Alex Cardall as Eeyore (though he also played Rabbit and Owl). His lines are delivered with excellent comedic timing and his movements are the most adorable, you soon forget that he is a puppet. Cardall has the struggle of handling three characters and nailing them all, handling three very different puppets and maintaining each character’s essence.

The puppets are perfectly built, with each one specialised to work in the way that’s best for them, with bigger puppets being attached to the puppeteer to keep them upright, and some being handled on the floor (like Piglet and Roo). Each one has its own style which makes it special, just as all the characters are special in their own way. The puppet for Rabbit did feel slightly off compared to the others, but this is quickly eradicated by Cardall’s great performance.

The music is basic, as is the plot, making it easy to follow and very much similar to the stories and films. The show features some classics like ‘The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers’ and Winnie the Pooh which evokes a childlike joy, whatever your age may be.

The show has something for everyone. Kids will love it, adults will love it, and it is certainly one to make a family trip to, especially with Easter break coming up.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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