Fluffy If Formless: ‘Winnie The Pooh The Musical’ Review

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winnie the pooh musical
Image credit: Pamela Raith

★★★✰✰

What new is there to say about Winnie The Pooh? A.A. Milne’s indefatigable creation still has legs over 100 years after his first appearance, numerous Disney iterations and one very strange horror B-movie. And although the Winnie The Pooh musical at Riverside Studios too fails to say anything new about the bear of very little brain, it presents a charming hour of impressive puppetry and characterisation, with more than enough charm to cover up a lack of plot.

Loosely following the seasons of the year, much like the Disney films off which it is based, the show is episodic, a “greatest hits” catalogue of both stories (Pooh sticks and honey searches) and songs (all by the Sherman Brothers). Some of these are much stronger than others, and the show is lifted by the appearance of Tigger (an irrepressible and accurate Robbie Noonan) and Eeyore (Alex Cardall). Unfortunately, the gentle whimsy and plotlessness of Pooh as a character doesn’t lend itself to theatrical motion, meaning that the show seems often directionless, despite giving Pooh a charming life-lesson quote to end each segment. There’s also a practical but strange decision to almost entirely remove Christopher Robin, the character who drives the films by instigating adventures. It’s a very brief hour that needs a firmer dramaturgical hand to give it some drive.

Where Pooh does come into its own, though, is the sheer charm that oozes from every second. The cast are faultless, from Jake Bazel’s pitch-perfect Pooh, to Lottie Grogan’s charming Piglet, to Alex Cardall’s impressive characterisations of every difficult Pooh character under the sun. The puppetry is impressive and provides much of the comedy, even if your eyes are drawn to the performers as much as the puppets (damn these actors and their expressive acting!), although poor Piglet in particular looks more like one of the stuffed toys at the merchandise stand than a living, breathing creature. Nevertheless, they’re a talented bunch who feel like the real characters and who turn the show’s lack of plot into an advantage: you’re simply happy to spend time with this rambunctious group of adorable fluffy creatures.

Whilst it may not have enough action to entrance its target audience, Winnie The Pooh The Musical comes complete with charm, excellent puppetry and a talented, funny ensemble cast. An enjoyable if slightly disposable hour.

Words by Issy Flower


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