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WITH THE KIDS | THEATER REVIEW

A happy day for Pooh

The lavish new show throws a surprise birthday party in the 100 Acre Wood.

September 29, 2005|Lynne Heffley | Times Staff Writer

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.

It also tends to point up the prepackaged feel of the character-driven event, as Franklin's graceful presence and full, melodic singing voice and the clown trio's comic exuberance add theatrical dimension.

Not that a recent audience at the show's tour stop at Long Beach's Terrace Theatre was critical. Attendees were too busy taking in the spectacle and digging the plentiful audience participation: doing "stoutness" exercises with Pooh, bouncing with Tigger and bringing winter on with wind sounds and waving arms. The show finishes up its local tour stops this week at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood.

*

`Disney Live! Winnie the Pooh'

Where: Kodak Theatre, 6801 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood

When: Opens 6:30 p.m. Friday. Runs 10:30 a.m., 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. Saturdays; 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Sundays. Also runs 11 a.m. next Thursday and Oct. 7

Ends: Oct. 9

Price: $20 to $50

Info: (213) 480-3232

Running time: 90 minutes

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