Mr. Popper’s Penguins

For parents of kids 5-12, Mr. Popper’s Penguins at the New Victory Theatre on West 42nd Street offers a delightful time for children as well as for their parents or big-person bringers.  Even sophisticates will be charmed, especially those wearying of endless polls, arguments, discussions on what-ifs, and dire predictions if-when.

The beloved book from 1934, and the several films that have been made from the rich source material about a man in love with the Antarctic who gets a gift of penguins, offers gleeful laughs and wonderment, no matter how old the viewer.

The staging is inventive, with “invisible” helpers moving the onstage penguins with remarkable fealty to the actual movements of penguins.  Children soon forget the people animating the adorable noisy penguins in the staging.  Only five cast members fill out the entire 90 minutes, with jokes mostly aimed at child-level understanding, and a few overheads aimed at adults.

Once the first penguin is joined by a sweet female, the penguins, of course, multiply, and the stage is filled with tiny, furry kits, who soon grow to trick-performing, mischievous young.  Children are mesmerized with delight.

For me, the best part, aside from the clever staging, a “real” snowfall falling on the audience, and the humor, was the fact that Mrs. Popper went along warmly and supportively with everything her obsessed husband proposed and adopted, even opening all the windows in winter to accommodate the cold-weather tuxedoed “guests” in her house.  A pleasure to see a working marriage, even when houseguests consume 45 pounds of fish per day.

Better than most shows of this nature, the cast appears at the finale, and the children are invited to ask questions of the cast and crew.  Remarkably, the questions asked were amazingly smart, and they gave us comfort that all is not yet lost in childhood education.  (Or these were privileged children, and thus more likely to have had better environmental and educational opportunities than the average...?)

Downstairs at the New Victory, too, there are videos of penguin dances for kids to mimic on a small stage, drawing platforms, and various penguin toys and related activities to indulge in for the young or nearly so.

We were probably the only people without kid or kidlets along for the ride, but we left fully satisfied and pleased.

An absence of snark and snooty ironic detachment does wonders for the weary soul.

For parents of kids 5-12, Mr. Popper’s Penguins at the New Victory Theatre on West 42nd Street offers a delightful time for children as well as for their parents or big-person bringers.  Even sophisticates will be charmed, especially those wearying of endless polls, arguments, discussions on what-ifs, and dire predictions if-when.

The beloved book from 1934, and the several films that have been made from the rich source material about a man in love with the Antarctic who gets a gift of penguins, offers gleeful laughs and wonderment, no matter how old the viewer.

The staging is inventive, with “invisible” helpers moving the onstage penguins with remarkable fealty to the actual movements of penguins.  Children soon forget the people animating the adorable noisy penguins in the staging.  Only five cast members fill out the entire 90 minutes, with jokes mostly aimed at child-level understanding, and a few overheads aimed at adults.

Once the first penguin is joined by a sweet female, the penguins, of course, multiply, and the stage is filled with tiny, furry kits, who soon grow to trick-performing, mischievous young.  Children are mesmerized with delight.

For me, the best part, aside from the clever staging, a “real” snowfall falling on the audience, and the humor, was the fact that Mrs. Popper went along warmly and supportively with everything her obsessed husband proposed and adopted, even opening all the windows in winter to accommodate the cold-weather tuxedoed “guests” in her house.  A pleasure to see a working marriage, even when houseguests consume 45 pounds of fish per day.

Better than most shows of this nature, the cast appears at the finale, and the children are invited to ask questions of the cast and crew.  Remarkably, the questions asked were amazingly smart, and they gave us comfort that all is not yet lost in childhood education.  (Or these were privileged children, and thus more likely to have had better environmental and educational opportunities than the average...?)

Downstairs at the New Victory, too, there are videos of penguin dances for kids to mimic on a small stage, drawing platforms, and various penguin toys and related activities to indulge in for the young or nearly so.

We were probably the only people without kid or kidlets along for the ride, but we left fully satisfied and pleased.

An absence of snark and snooty ironic detachment does wonders for the weary soul.