‘Winnie the Pooh’ at Adventure Theatre MTC by Julia L. Exline

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Adventure Theatre MTC presents Winnie the Pooh, based on the book by A.A. Milne and adapted for the stage by le Clanché du Rand. Jerry Whiddon directs a group of immensely talented actors, who bring your favorite childhood characters to life in this fantastic production!

I’ve found over the years that Adventure Theatre MTC’s productions always provide awe-inspiring sets, and this show is no exception. Plainly put — it’s gorgeous! A forest rises from the floor, with varying shades of rich greens, browns, and blues. The trees are incredibly detailed, and therefore hold a certain character about them. Every tree is different, whether it has a door built into it, an illuminated window, or a squat little beehive nestled in the branches.

Joshua Morgan (Rabbit), Holden Brettell (Christopher Robin), and Todd Scofield (Winnie the Pooh). Photo courtesy of Adventure Theatre/MTC.

Joshua Morgan (Rabbit),  Genevieve James (Piglet), and Todd Scofield (Winnie the Pooh). Photo by Bruce Douglas.

Set Designer Luciana Stecconi really does a beautiful job. A piano sits amongst the tree stumps and tall grass, where Musical Director William Yanesh provides live accompaniment throughout the show. Sound Designer Neil McFadden uses a variety of nature sounds to make the forest come to life, and Lighting Designer Andrew F Griffin uses dappled lighting for a sunlight-peeking-through-branches effect. Together, the atmosphere that these designers create is just perfect. Costumes designed by Katie Touart are clever and inventive.

Everyday articles such as shoes, gloves, and baseball caps are colored and tweaked to help create a furry forest creature. Winnie the Pooh wears a simple fleece bodysuit, while Piglet is dressed all in pink, with his signature blue and green striped shirt. To create Eeyore, heavy blue denim and a hunting cap with fringe are used, as well as grey clothing for rabbit (and cutely enough, shearling shoes!). The outfits are overall adorable with crafty touches, such as an aproned kangaroo who has a change purse where her pouch should be.

It’s a peaceful day for Winnie the Pooh (Todd Scofield) who, while not very smart, is a modest and loveable lug, lumbering around humming songs and creating little poems with a sweet smile. He is visited by his friends Christopher Robin (Holden Brettell) and Piglet (Genevieve James), who are then shocked when a frenzied Rabbit (Joshua Morgan), bursts onto the scene with some ominous news: there is a strange new animal in the forest called a “kanga,” who is intimidatingly large, and she brought a bathtub with her! Rabbit has a scheme to get rid of Kanga (James Gardiner) that involves “borrowing” her precious Roo (also played by Genevieve James) and hiding him from her, with the promise to return him after she swears to leave the forest. This will be a challenging feat, as Kanga is highly protective of Roo and hardly ever lets him out of her sight. With a risky plan set for later that day, Pooh and Piglet take a walk in the woods, and discover Heffalump tracks! With the threat of a nearby Heffalump, they decide to create a trap for it in the form of a deep hole and baiting him with a jar of honey…that is, if Pooh can resist from eating it all on the way there. Eeyore arrives on the scene (also played by James Gardiner) with a problem of his own: he’s lost his tail, and needs help finding it! Suddenly, Pooh’s peaceful day has turned into a mish-mash of adventures! Overwhelmed, he decides to visit the wise owl (also played by Joshua Morgan) for advice. Will he be able to help all of his friends?

The performances in this production are amazing and the cast has a great chemistry. I especially enjoyed Joshua Morgan’s portrayal of the high-strung, energetic Rabbit, and James Gardiner’s miserable, drawling Eeyore. Songs are also a big part of this show, with my favorite being Rabbit singing about his large family in “Friends and Relations.” During this song, animal puppets of every variety (bunnies, squirrels, raccoons, etc.) poke out from between tree branches to sing along. With the threat of a bath looming, Piglet sings a song about how he loves being dirty. Among other songs, Pooh sings a song about (what else?) honey, and Eeyore sings about the awful day that he is having…a trend that has been on repeat recently. To ease her bouncing Roo to sleep, Kanga sings an adorable song called “Rock-A-Bye Roo,” and may inadvertently make others fall asleep as well!

James Gardiner (Eeyore). Photo by Bruce Douglas.

James Gardiner (Eeyore). Photo by Bruce Douglas.

Filled with adventure, excitement, and lessons, it proves to be quite a day for Pooh and his friends. I enjoyed this production immensely, and I’m an adult! Take your little Roo to visit Pooh and his gang for a fun-filled afternoon!

Running time is 60 minutes without an intermission.

Winnie the Pooh plays through February 24, 2013 at Adventure Theatre MTC—7300 MacArthur Blvd., in Glen Echo, MD. For tickets, call (301) 634-2270, or order them online.

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