PLUSH body puppets, loud, steel-edged amplification, audience participation and pricey merchandise for sale in the lobby: The lavish new "Disney Live! Winnie the Pooh" bus-and-truck show on tour in the Southland follows the tried-and-true path of most children's media-based traveling shows.
Stage versions of such shows as "Blue's Clues" and "Dora the Explorer" have added dimension with the creative inclusion of the shows' educational aspects; Disney's version of the A.A. Milne characters stays in familiar territory, parading through a slight story line involving a surprise birthday party for Pooh.
The show, directed by BT McNicholl, does give the preschool audience plenty of visual splash to ooh and ahh over: Patrick Dierson's varied lighting effects (snowflakes, rainbows, rainfall, leafy shadows, complementary colors and patterns), video projections of animated and still backgrounds, a blacklight dream sequence and a multilayered 100 Acre Wood forest by "Avenue Q" set designer Anna Louizos.
Nor is the popularity of the characters ever in question, although Tigger's entrance may receive the loudest roars of recognition.
The show's innovation is the addition of four actors to facilitate the action, led by Tracie Franklin, the onstage Storyteller, who sets up each scene for the audience, and three clown "honey helpers" -- Leo Acton, Tony Robinette, Gregory Parks -- who do a good job entertaining throughout with funny bits of business here and there, moving set pieces and working props.