Lifeline Theatre’s adaptations of children’s books are always well done. “Mr. Popper’s Penguins”, an adaptation of a story by Richard & Florence Atwater, is absolutely charming. My granddaughter Molly and I really liked it. In fact, Molly liked it so much she got autographs! Molly and I give “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” 4 Spotlights. (recommended)
During the winters, Mr. Popper (Jonathan Schwart), a house painter, dreams about adventures he might have in far-away lands. Mrs. Potter (Heather Currie), who has saved every penny she could from Mr. P’s summer of house painting, is stretching those pennies just to keep food on the table.
Mr. Popper was so excited about the expedition exploring the Antarctic he wrote an enthusiastic letter to the Admiral. One night, as they’re listening to a radio broadcast about the expedition, the Admiral promises Mr. Popper a surprise.
When the surprise arrives, it turns out to be a penguin, whom Mr. Popper names Captain Cook. The Poppers clean out the icebox so Captain Cook will have a cool place to stay. When Captain Cook grows lethargic, Mr. Popper writes to an aquarium for help. Since Greta, their female penguin, has the same problem, they send her to the Poppers.
The two penguins are happy, so the Poppers are happy, but then Greta lays an egg, and then another and another until she has 10 eggs. Suddenly the Poppers have 12 penguins! They still don’t have any money coming in, so Mr. Popper decides to train the penguins as a circus act. Mr. & Mrs. Popper and their 12 penguins go on the road.
Josh Bernaski and Amanda Roeder played all of the other characters in the story. All four members of this hardworking cast were puppeteers, too. Molly thought all of the puppets were cool. Captain Cook and Greta were very large, kind of lumpy puppets which sat on the ground while the babies were in groups of five per puppeteer.
Although the story was written during the Depression, when times were really tough, “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” concentrates on the positive. This adaptation set a lot of the dialogue to music, which Molly thought was one of the best parts of the show.
“Mr. Popper’s Penguins” has been extended through December 13th at Lifeline Theatre, 6912 N. Glenwood Ave., in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago. Performance times are Saturday and Sunday at 11:00 am and 1:00 pm. Running time is about an hour, no intermission. Tickets are $15. Lifeline provides free parking at a remote lot with free shuttle service to and from the theater. FYI (773) 761-4477 or www.lifelinetheatre.com
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