BWW Review: Trouble Never Looked So Cute in Rockefeller's PADDINGTON GETS IN A JAM
However many ways there are to say "wildly adorable" is exactly how many reasons you have to see this show.
It's been some time since I've been to a children's show, but being in the audience at Saturday afternoon's performance of Paddington Gets in a Jam reminded me just how special they are. There's such a brewing vitality all around the theater as parents and children search for their seats and prepare for the show to come; I'm not sure anything exists quite like it elsewhere. It is where innocence meets experience - where children, who fidget in their seats, eat a pre-show snack and point out the large rubber ducky atop the bathtub, meet the creative genius of theater professionals who know best just how to capture these little ones' attention. And that is exactly what is proven as the show begins and a hush settles over the audience. Paddington walks onto the stage, and the sense of wonder at his appearance is palpable - in the silence of awe can a hundred tiny gasps be imagined as this beloved character becomes as real as anyone can ever imagine.
Created and directed by Jonathan Rockefeller, written by Doug Smiotek and presented by Rockefeller Productions, Paddington Gets in a Jam began its twelve-week run at the DR2 Theatre on December 13th. For over sixty years, Michael's Bond's loveable bear has delighted audiences both in print and on screen; this NY Times Critic's Pick now marks Paddington's stage debut. And what an impression this show has already made! This production brings together a cast and creative team that know exactly what they're doing to make this show as delightful and fun as possible for children of all ages, without losing its great professional quality. You can't help but laugh as Paddington gets into all sorts of trouble as he tries to help his neighbor, Mr. Curry, prepare for the visit of his Great Aunt Matilda. In his efforts does he manage to turn a beautiful set into his personal jungle gym, and even though he can't seem to get a job done quite as planned, he always makes sure to keep his positive attitude afloat...along with the furniture in the now-flooded upper levels of his neighbor's home.
Done with the lightheartedness you would expect from your beary neighbor, Paddington has the audience giggling with his silly antics and lack of any sort of luck. It all begins when he walks over to Mr. Curry's house to borrow some sugar; he is doing some baking, but has run out of this key ingredient. Smack in the middle of his neighbor's flurry to get things done before his Great Aunt's arrival, Paddington is left to his own devices and goes in search of the sugar. In his attempts does he destroy a freshly-baked cake, vacuum [up] the foyer and flood the entire upstairs... and that's not all he can do in a matter of sixty minutes! He tries to hang new wallpaper, keep his hands around a slippery bottle of soap and bake a new cake - all without knowing quite what he's doing. And of course, he must take a break to make a marmalade sandwich, as this is definitely an emergency.
When the doorbell rings and Great Aunt Matilda arrives, Paddington and Mr. Curry must put aside their differences and work together to make the house spotless and give Matilda a reason to turn her perpetual frown upside down.
Paddington Gets in a Jam is not only a 60-minute bundle of joy and entertainment, but manages to warm the hearts of both children and adults by showing everyone that things will never be so bad that they can't be fixed. Even Great Aunt Matilda (who, as we learn in the end) can even be made to smile, urging us to think as a child would and not be sucked into Mr. Curry's state of panic. We are eager to help Paddington out of the mess he's made, and this show has a wonderful ability of not just entertaining children, but of compelling them to question and participate; I'm pretty sure there is a hidden agenda of testing children's life skills at work here. Quite a few kids in the audience would yell out, telling Paddington that his method of baking a cake is wrong, or that he can't use a feather duster as a bouquet of flowers. When I mentioned that I hadn't been to a children's show in quite some time, the audience's enthusiasm to steer Paddington in the right direction really makes you wonder just how this show has that something special that captures our attention so easily.
It would be wise at this point to mention Paddington himself. I had the exact same question as the little girl sitting behind me: is that a puppet, or is someone actually in a bear costume? Seeing Paddington come to life on stage put a huge smile on my face, because he just whisks away all worry and cares in one fell swoop. To see a talking bear, dressed in his little blue parka and red hat, delights audiences at first glance simply by how he appears before us. Operated by a three-person team, Paddington is unbelievable real in his appearance and movements; puppets have come quite a long way when you watch this team work together to make Paddington able to seamlessly destroy an entire house.
Much credit must go to the cast for their wonderful job in making us all a little bit more appreciative of what theater can accomplish. Jake Bazel, Jess Bulzacchelli, John Cody, A.J. Ditty and Kirsty Moon do a really admirable job of bringing Paddington to life on stage, while Puppet Builders Vito Leanza and Laura Manns, Set Designers Peter R. Feuchtwanger and David Goldstein, Lighting Designer Jamie Roderick, Sound Designer David Ferdinand, Props Masters Mikaela Hogan and Anthony Freitas and Composer Nate Edmondson do excellent work behind the scenes.
So if you're looking for a fun time with the children in your life, do everyone a favor and see Paddington Gets in a Jam. Performances began at DR2 Theatre (located at 103 East 15th Street) on December 13th, and will continue thru March 8th. Tickets can be purchased by clicking here. Shows are every Friday at 10am and 4pm and Saturday/Sunday at 10am, 12pm and 2pm. Running time is 60 minutes. Depending on the kind of ticket you buy, you are able to take a picture with Paddington after the show, and perhaps buy some cool memorabilia to remember the fun you will undoubtedly have.
Enjoy the show!