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BWW Review: PIPPI LONGSTOCKING at Kate Goldman Children's Theatre

This story full of fun surprises plays through May 8.

BWW Review: PIPPI LONGSTOCKING at Kate Goldman Children's Theatre
Jackson Hamilton as Tommy
Isabella Rempe as Pippi
Landry Wagner as Annika
Photo by Steve Gibbons.

Growing up, one of my favorite movies to rent from our local library was about a strong girl named Pippi Longstocking, which was short for Pippilotta Delicatessa Windowshade Mackrelmint Efraim's Daughter Longstocking. So when Des Moines Playhouse announced it would be part of their 2021-2023 season, I was excited to see how they would bring this production to the stage. Their production had surprises sprinkled throughout that will spark the imagination of everyone in the audience.

In case you are unfamiliar with the story of Pippi, it starts by introducing us to two children, Annika and Tommy. The house next door has been vacant for a long time, and they notice something strange. One day, suddenly, there's a horse at the house, so someone must live there. When they go to investigate, they find Pippi. They quickly become friends with Pippi and learn that she lives alone with no adults around. When the nosy Mrs. Prysellius, the owner of the children's home, finds out about Pippi, she sets out to get Pippi and bring her to the home. Will Pippi have to go to the children's home? Because a kid can't take care of themselves, can they? That you will have to attend the show to find out.

The audience's imagination is sparked as soon as you walk into the theatre. You see a green cobblestone painted stage with a house at the back as you walk in. What set designer Nicholas Amundson has done is put fun and surprising ways the cast can get in and around the house. While the stage is small, with all these ways the cast can get in and out, it makes the house feel huge for those willing to use their imagination.

I always love attending shows at the Kate Goldman because the shows always seem to be full of color. This show is no different, and through Angie Lampe's beautiful costumes, we see all the beautiful colors of the rainbow pop out. I appreciated how her costumes incorporated brighter colors for the kids and darker colors for adults, and it played well into how Pippi may view the people in her world.

These elements, along with the Lighting by Jason Paull and Sound by David Miller, tie together to make a fun, kid-friendly world under the direction of Melissa Chavas-Miller. While the book may be at a reading level of a 3rd grader, she has been able to turn this into a fun and enjoyable production for the whole family to see. The fun, larger-than-life characters are great for young kids, and the scarier element of Pippi possibly taken from her home is great for kids who are a little older. She has found something for everyone to enjoy regardless of their age.

One of the clever parts of the show is that they have cast two terrific students in the role of Pippi, Isabella Rempe, who is making her Playhouse debut, and Amaya Veldkamp, who is returning to the Playhouse stage. The program list which one you are seeing in the bio section. While one plays Pippi throughout the performance, the other plays Pippi in a short flashback scene at the end of the first half. The performance I attended had Isabella Rempe as Pippi, and she did a fantastic job bringing this fun character, who is full of energy, to the stage. She is joined on stage by Landry Wagner as Annika and Jackson Hamilton as Tommy, who seems to have fun on stage playing off of each other.

Another fun surprise was how the adults/villains in the show were played. Many adults are played as though they are larger-than-life characters, which is how I feel Pippi would see them. The more "villainous," the more comedic they became. One great example of this was Jodi Stanfield as Mrs. Prysselius. While her character could be seen as scary, since she is trying to remove Pippi from her home, she plays her in a comedic way that takes some of the scarier side out and lets the kids know it will be ok in the end.

The surprises that come from kids seeing shows are the reactions they have. Sometimes it may inspire them to read a book a show is based on, or maybe it will be the spark they need to take the journey to the stage themselves. From the set full of surprise, colorful costumes, and a terrific cast, Pippi Longstocking is a show that will not just be entertaining but will be one families can talk about for years to come. The show plays through May 8 on the Kate Goldman Stage at Des Moines Playhouse. To find out more or to get tickets, visit https://www.dmplayhouse.com/events/pippi-longstocking-2/.

Review was written by DC Felton
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From This Author - DC Felton