As the season of pantomime approaches, parents far and wide are probably letting out a collective groan at the prospect of a three-hour romp filled with innuendo, silliness and overpriced merchandise.
However, Mr Popper’s Penguins, from West End producer Kenny Wax and now showing at Criterion Theatre, provides a very lovely and extremely enchanting alternative, which running at just one hour, includes enough to satisfy even the fussiest of audience members.
Pins and Needles Productions has adapted the children’s book penned by husband and wife Richard and Florence Atwater, the same book which inspired the 2011 film starring Jim Carey.
Mr and Mrs Popper live in the quiet town Stillwater, where Mr Popper dreams of being a great adventurer like the heroes he listens to on his beloved radio.
His greatest ambition is to visit the North Pole and so he writes to the famous Admiral Drake, who then responds to Mr Popper’s correspondence live on air.
Just like magic, a parcel mysteriously arrives at the Popper’s residence and within is a gift that is set to turn the budding adventurer’s world upside down: A penguin.
The shenanigans that ensue are both comic and heart-warming, with catchy songs that complement the narrative thread and make what seems impossible become possible.
The staging is compact, with inventive use of the props, set and sound. The cast of four are superb, singing dancing and puppeteering.
Although Russell Morton as Mr Popper and Roxane Palmer as Mrs Popper lead the show with giddy aplomb, the real stars are the adorable and cheeky penguins, masterfully animated by Lucy Grattan and Toby Manley.
It’s a magical show, with plenty to entertain a young audience. My two children were mesmerised by not only the story, but the naughty penguins they were fortunate to meet afterwards and have a photo with – a lovely touch that made the experience hugely enjoyable.
Mr Popper’s Penguins is certainly a real treat.
The show runs at Criterion Theatre, London until December 31. Details: www.criterion-theatre.co.uk