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Mr. Popper's Penguins: Press
EXTENDED through December 13th!
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From the Chicago Reader
October 28, 2015
By Albert Williams
Richard and Florence Atwater's 1938 children's tale—adapted for the stage by playwright Robert Kauzlaric and songwriter George Howe—is the endearing and enduring tale of a housepainter whose fascination with faraway places leads him to write a fan letter to an antarctic explorer, who responds by sending Popper a penguin from the South Pole. Soon enough the bird has found a mate and fathered a feathered family, putting a strain on the Popper household's limited financial resources—until Mr. Popper decides to turn the avians into a touring vaudeville act, Popper's Performing Penguins. This charming and funny hour-long family show, which uses life-size puppets to represent the birds, emphasizes the loving partnership of Mr. Popper and his improbably patient and supportive wife, whose participation in the action has been expanded from the original book. Under the crisp direction of Paul S. Holmquist, Kauzlaric's witty script and Howe's bouncy score is well delivered by Jonathan Schwart and Heather Currie as the Poppers and Josh Bernaski and Amanda Roeder in a variety of supporting roles.
From Chicago Parent
Chase dreams of grand adventures with 'Mr. Popper's Penguins'
November 20, 2015
By Keely Flynn
Who hasn’t had a dream of grand adventures? Who hasn’t had their head in the clouds once too often? And who among us can honestly state that they’ve never--not even once--hoped to meet a real, live penguin? Lifeline Theatre’s warm new production of Mr. Popper’s Penguins (adapted by Robert Kauzlaric from Richard and Florence Atwater’s novel) tells the tale of a guy for whom all three statements ring true. A house painter by trade, Mr Popper and his wife fret about money in already lean times as he approaches his “off” season. This, of course, doesn’t stop him from eagerly tuning into radio news of his favorite polar explorer--or just as eagerly awaiting a polar surprise via U.S. Mail.
The cast of four, under the tight direction of Paul S. Holmquist, does a fantastic job of zipping the action (and scenery and beautiful puppets) along. Josh Bernaski and Amanda Roeder are terrific (and wear many hats) as the characters who populate the Poppers’ town of Stillwater and beyond. Heather Currie’s Mrs. Popper is great as the supportive, long-suffering and ultimately (and unequivocally) devoted wife. Mr. Popper, played earnestly and affably by Jonathan Schwart, is an entirely root-able protagonist, and the kind of pal any penguin would be honored to have.
Mr. Popper, his penguins and their predicament are a throwback to a bygone era; a nod to a gentler time when radio ruled the land and the news of the day was spread over the back fence. That said, the story more than resonated with my 6- and 4-year-olds. They didn’t need Google to translate what an icebox was, nor did they question why folks would choose to sit around in the evening and wait for a show to begin. (One you had to listen to, at that!) Maybe they were able to immerse themselves in this beautifully vintage world because of Lifeline’s thoughtful curating of the Poppers’ cozy home. Perhaps it was due to the charming and funny songs (composed by Music Director George Howe) and timeless Vaudevillian humor. Or it might just be because, if you suspend your disbelief enough, there’s a good chance someone will mail you your very own penguin from the North Pole.
In which case I’ll eagerly join those ranks.
From Spotlight on Lake
November 9, 2015
By Carol Moore
During the winters, Mr. Popper (Jonathan Schwart), a house painter, dreams about adventures he might have in far-away lands. Mrs. Potter (Heather Currie), who has saved every penny she could from Mr. P’s summer of house painting, is stretching those pennies just to keep food on the table.
Mr. Popper was so excited about the expedition exploring the Antarctic he wrote an enthusiastic letter to the Admiral. One night, as they’re listening to a radio broadcast about the expedition, the Admiral promises Mr. Popper a surprise.
When the surprise arrives, it turns out to be a penguin, whom Mr. Popper names Captain Cook. The Poppers clean out the icebox so Captain Cook will have a cool place to stay. When Captain Cook grows lethargic, Mr. Popper writes to an aquarium for help. Since Greta, their female penguin, has the same problem, they send her to the Poppers.
The two penguins are happy, so the Poppers are happy, but then Greta lays an egg, and then another and another until she has 10 eggs. Suddenly the Poppers have 12 penguins! They still don’t have any money coming in, so Mr. Popper decides to train the penguins as a circus act. Mr. & Mrs. Popper and their 12 penguins go on the road.
Josh Bernaski and Amanda Roeder played all of the other characters in the story. All four members of this hardworking cast were puppeteers, too. Molly thought all of the puppets were cool. Captain Cook and Greta were very large, kind of lumpy puppets which sat on the ground while the babies were in groups of five per puppeteer.
Although the story was written during the Depression, when times were really tough, “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” concentrates on the positive. This adaptation set a lot of the dialogue to music, which Molly thought was one of the best parts of the show.
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