The latest leg on Paddington Bear’s journey from his native Peru to his adoptive home in London to TV and movie screens everywhere is his stage debut in New York City at the DR2 Theatre in Paddington Gets in a Jam. Based on the original children’s books by Michael Bond, the newest adventure of the adorable eponymous bear, created and directed by Jonathan Rockefeller, written by Doug Kmiotek, and presented by Rockefeller Productions, combines puppetry with live actors in a delightful show that’s aimed at ages three to eight, but is utterly irresistible to the child in all of us.
Everyone knows that Paddington has a taste for marmalade and always carries a sandwich with him in case of emergency. When he decides he wants to learn how to make his favorite food for himself, he finds that he’s out of sugar, and goes next door to borrow a cup from Mr. Curry. But his grouchy neighbor, who’s expecting a visit at any minute from his crotchety Great Aunt Matilda, is in a panic because he overslept, he’s still in his pajamas, and his house is a mess. So he enlists Paddington to help with his to-do list while he gets dressed – and although he tries his best, total chaos ensues. He is a bear, after all, and isn’t quite sure of how to perform all of the chores he’s been assigned (or, for that matter, any of them!).
Masterfully manipulated by puppeteers Jake Bazel, John Cody, and Kirsty Moon – who flawlessly maneuver through the porch, foyer, kitchen, stairway, bathroom, and bedroom of Mr. Curry’s two-level home without ever being seen, hidden behind a half-wall, bathtub, and bed (clever set design by Peter R. Feuchtwanger and David Goldstein) – the well-intentioned but inept Paddington (made by puppet builders Vito Leanza and Laura Manns) makes an even bigger mess of it all. From his inexperienced attempts at baking a cake, vacuuming, recreating a portrait, repairing the plumbing, and replacing the wallpaper, to distracting Aunt Matilda with his first-ever magic show (with Mikaela Hogan and Anthony Freitas skillfully serving as props masters), the soft-spoken bear makes frequent costume changes, in the belief that “In order to do a good job, you must first look the part” and, even though everything that can possibly go wrong does, optimistically reminds us that “It always helps to look on the bright side.”
Through the series of silly calamities, the even-tempered Paddington casts his famous hard stares at the angry Mr. Curry (played with gusto by A.J. Ditty) and ends up eliciting laughs from his laughably stern Aunt (Jess Bulzacchelli), even though his tricks are as much of a disaster as his help around the house (leaving Mr. Curry to point out that he’s “not David Copbearfield”). And Rockefeller’s measured pacing picks up in hilarious slapstick scenes that are perfectly executed by the cast and keep the audiences of all ages gleefully giggling.
If you’re like me, and you can’t get enough of that lovable bear, you can bring the whole family to the DR2 for Paddington Gets in a Jam during his limited engagement in New York through March 8. And more good news: you can also watch him in a brand new animated TV series coming to Nickelodeon later this year, and starring again on the big screen in a third movie installment that’s now in the works, so be sure to stay tuned to see what he gets into next!
Running Time: Approximately 50 minutes, without intermission.