“Winnie The Pooh” on Stage at Tyler Civic Theatre:
A Family-Fun Classic Production
By John Baggett
“Winnie the Pooh” opens on Thursday, November 16th and runs through Sunday, November 19th. Tickets are available at the tylercivictheatre.com or call the box office at (903)592-0561.
Sometimes it’s really hard to find activities that the entire family can enjoy. Luckily for all of us Tyler Civic Theatre has us covered. Join them as they venture into the Hundred Acre Forest with their special production of “Winnie the Pooh.”
Based on the classic tales by A.A. Milne, the play opens as Christopher Robin (Karter Simmons) is told a bedtime story by his Nanny (Georgi Dumas) about his stuffed bear, Winnie the Pooh (Justin Wayne Purser) and his best friend, Piglet (Gianna Mahfood). The story she tells finds Pooh attempting to get a beehive down from a tree because it is full of honey. This mission causes him to ignore the concerns of Piglet and everyone else in the forest who is nervous about the arrival of Kanga (Dumas), her son Roo (Tres Taylor), her big blue bathtub, and her bottle of “poison.” (Spoiler alert – it’s shampoo.)
The looming threat of Kanga arriving has Rabbit (Carter Oyer), Owl (Eliot Burk), and Eeyore (Joshua Alexander) in an uproar. (Well, as much of an uproar as Eeyore can have.) But, what they don’t know is, outside the potential threat of a bath, Kanga is no threat. She is just looking to settle into a new home with Roo. Roo, however, just wants to find a new playmate, be it Tigger (Steven Divon Young II), or Rabbit’s nephews Huey (Alec Anderson) and Dewey (Levi Kreichbaum).
However, when his attempt to float to the top of the tree to retrieve honey goes awry, Pooh leaves Piglet alone, whom Kanga latches on and takes him off for a bath and a new place to stay as Roo’s new playmate. Now, Pooh must work with the rest of the Hundred Acre Forest to get Piglet back.
“Winnie the Pooh” was written by Kristen Sergel, who also penned stage productions of “Seven Days in May” and “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.” The Civic Theatre production is directed by Robin Root, who previously directed runs of “Our Town” and “Alice in Wonderland.” Root assembled a wonderful crew of young actors to bring these beloved characters to life.
As our lead, Purser embodies the honey and marmalade obsessed gentle bear, making his voice almost exactly match the one we’ve heard in decades worth of animated representations of Pooh. That being said, he makes the character very much his own and is delightfully funny and charming. Mahfood is simply adorable as Piglet, delivering a performance that can’t help but make you smile.
Oyer is delightfully grumpy as Rabbit, getting big laughs and setting up laughs for others in the cast. After spending some time this year working behind the scenes on “Legally Blonde” and “The Disappearance of Maud Crawford,” it’s nice seeing him on the stage again. Alexander almost steals every scene he is in, with wonderful comic timing. How he kept it together on stage and didn’t break into laughter, I’ll never know!
Simmons is great as Christopher Robin, earning some big laughs during his interactions with Pooh and Piglet, and tugs at the heartstrings at the end. Burk is incredible as Owl, displaying a talent beyond his years, ensuring he has a bright future on the stage. In her dual role, Dumas also is a joy to watch, a wonderful young talent that I hope to see in more shows as she continues her journey as an actress. Taylor is also fantastic as Roo, another bright young star in the making, as are the rest of our cast – Young, Anderson, and Kreichbaum, all of whom I hope to continue to act because they are all a delight to watch.
“Winnie the Pooh” is not just a production for children. Yes, it is “children’s theatre,” but as someone that wasn’t always the biggest fan of Pooh and his friends growing up, I was absolutely won over by this production. It is a heartwarming, laugh out loud night at the theatre that will entertain everyone from age 1 to 101. You should absolutely go see it. You will leave with a smile on your face.