OREM — Winnie the Pooh at Hale Center Theater Orem is a blast for kids. The performers were energetic and fun, as they played dress up and invited the kids in the audience on stage or had the kids sing along and make sound effects throughout the show. The music and lyrics are by Richard and Robert Sherman and Robert and Kristen Lopez, who did a great job making each line funny and cute and the music engaging and Broadway-like.

Show closes November 7, 2019.

Cheryl Davis’s script uses scenes and moments from A. A. Milne‘s Winnie the Pooh books, but focuses mostly on when Pooh finds a note left by Christopher Robin. Pooh takes it to Rabbit, who takes it to Owl, who tells them what it says. Owl’s interpretation is different than what Christopher Robin meant, so the stuffed animals go on a hunt for the terrible “Backson” that “got CR.” The characters end up getting trapped in their own Backson trap. Finally, Christopher Robin (the CR of the note) shows up and tells them he meant “back soon,” and everyone is happy again.

I loved the music in this show. It consisted of familiar music from the old Disney movies, but had added harmonies and embellishments. And despite being a 45 minute show, I guess got sucked into the story along with the kids. It was fun to see my husband and two kids clapping along, making Pooh’s rumbly tummy noise, and singing the honey song, “Honey honey honey, honey honey honey, honey honey honey…. YEEEEAAAAHHH!” (We were amazing at the song.) The Backson song was fun too, with the most ridiculous lyrics about this imaginary beast and what it does: “They sneak into your kitchen and switch your forks and spoons, they creep into your party and pop your red balloons.” This was a fitting play for Halloween time with the dress ups and the fear of monsters.

Left to right: Joseph Paul Branca as Tigger, Dustin Bolt as Winnie the Pooh, and Kelly Coombs as Piglet. Photo by Suzy Oliveira/Suzy O. Photography.

The actors were appropriately fun and expressive as they portrayed these classic characters. I love how laid back Dustin Bolt was as Winnie the Pooh, and how grateful Pooh was for the simple things in life. Bolt was particularly endearing when he would stick out his tummy in a very Pooh-like manner. As Piglet, Kelly Coombs was my favorite actress because of her facial expressions and with how real she played the role, despite being so over the top. I loved her practical yet simple responses to Pooh in her high voice.

The lighting, designed by Ryan Fallis, was extremely effective and helpful at telling the story. It would change to show the time of day, the mood and emotions of the characters, and during the dangerous fall into the pit, the lights went out and flashed like lightning. It was great effect, and the scared faces the actors made helped it along.

The set, designed by Cole McClure and Bobby Swenson, was simple. There were some designs painted on the floor and wall of the black box, but its double-duty as a set for another show was apparent. But, the characters brought on trees when they entered to represent the hundred acre wood, and they used them throughout the storytelling, and these techniques kept the scenery grounded in the Winnie the Pooh story. The actors also carried on four large crates that had all sorts of dress ups and props inside. When they first came onstage, I could almost tell who each person was, but when they dressed up and added ears, stripes, tails, etc, it was fun to see them transform—an effect expertly crafted by director David Smith. I also loved how the costumes (designed by Tami Crandall) were so simple, with a homemade look, such as the flannel ears attached to a simple headband they had for Pooh, Rabbit, and Eeyore.

Winnie the Pooh is a perfect show for kids, small and medium sized. It can also be very enjoyable for parents who have some Winnie the Pooh nostalgia from childhood, and is a comfortable length for even the wiggliest of children, such as my 4-year-old. Thanks, Hale Center theater Orem for a play that is touching, even as it brings laughter and joy to its audience.

Winnie the Pooh plays Tuesdays through Fridays at 10 AM and Mondays and Fridays at 4:30 PM through November 8 at Hale Center Theater Orem (225 West 400 North, Orem). Tickets are $8-10. For more information, visit www.haletheater.org.

This review was supported by a generous grant from the Orem CARE program.