Review: Winnie the Pooh (Riverside Studios)

Deep in the Hundred Acre Wood, just off the Hammersmith Bridge, Pooh Bear goes on search of some ‘hunny’ and has a host of adventures with his friends.

Heading across the pond for a musical extravaganza created by Jonathan Rockefeller, we follow Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, Tigger, Kanga, Roo, Rabbit, and Owl in a technically-slick show for little ones.

Packed with pre-schoolers on Saturday morning’s performance, with all the constant ups, downs, and disturbances that entails, the mood was more of a busy school than theatre.

On the stage, the puppetry and detail was lovely, AA Milne’s stories were easily translated to live performance, and several songs made an appearance (notably the Tigger song we all know from the original Disney film).

Promotional photo from Winnie the Pooh

As the seasons progress and Pooh fills the time while Christopher Robin is at school, we see Piglet struggling with his kite and being the brunt of physical comedy, Rabbit and Owl trying to be the voice of reason, and Eeyore being the epitome of cheer.

My memory of Pooh Bear and friends goes back to the 1977 compilation film and the books Winnie the Pooh (1926) and The House at Pooh Corner (1928). They are funny, charming, and wildly creative.

Here, the musical motifs are present with some of the Sherman Brothers songs sitting alongside a new orchestral score. As Pooh heads towards his centenary, he seems to remain the silly old bear he always was.

This Winnie the Pooh musical is very American in style, substance, and vernacular. Think ‘buddy’ and ‘tom-ay-toes’. It’s shiny, colourful, and entertaining.

Promotional photo from Winnie the Pooh

The performers – Jake Bazel, Robbie Noonan, Alex Cardall, Lottie Grogan, Chloe Gentles, and Laura Bacon – who voice and manipulate the animals are very gifted and clearly enjoy the experience.

Whether the animals (not all in stage at the same time as some actors play multiple roles) are trying to make friends with a snowman, affecting a rescue, or simply playing ‘pooh sticks’, there is much to appreciate.

If your child is a fan of the characters, this should hold their interest (even the tiniest of tots); if not, remember Disney always reach the child in the adult, so you should have a fun hour here.

Winnie the Pooh continues at Riverside Studios until 21 May. Tickets here, with a variety of options, including ‘magic’ seats and family group bookings. It then goes on a UK and Ireland tour.