FamilyFestive 15/16MusicalNorth WestReview

Mr Popper’s Penguins – The Lowry, Salford

Music: Luke Bateman
Lyrics: Ricky Hughes
Director: Emma Earle
Reviewer: Jay Nuttall


“I think we’re going to need a bigger fridge” declares Mrs Popper in this brand new family musical hitting The Lowry this Christmas. Waddle on down and you are in store for a very sweet family treat.

Originally based on the novel by Richard and Florence Atwater, made into a film starring Jim Carrey in 2011, Mr Popper’s Penguins is an exciting brand new family show. Combining a great musical score and puppetry aplenty, it is enough to really make everyone clap their flippers and squawk out of the theatre.

Mr Popper, a frustrated painter and decorator, dreams of breaking from the confines of Stillwater and become a great explorer and travel around the world or, even better, the polar ice caps – especially The Antarctic. When, quite magically, the great explorer Admiral Drake from the South Pole catches this icy wind and sends Mr &Mrs Popper a penguin in a box through the post, there is bound to be more than a few problems in store! Captain Cook, as their avian pet is christened, lives in the fridge, of course, and life for Mr &Mrs Popper is going to be a little less black and white than it ever was before with this chaotic arrival.

Acted by a cast of four this is magical new musical is bound to delight a family of all ages. Packed into a playing time of sixty minutes we meet one, two, and then another eight black and white visitors from a colder world who turn the couple’s lives upside down. It boasts a very tight script and clever score as Captain Cook is joined by Greta (from London Zoo) and their eight offsprings who obviously cause a winterland of commotion.

As Mr &Mrs Popper, Russel Morton and Roxanne Palmer have more than enough on their plates trying to keep control of their ever increasing flippered family puppeteered, in the main, by Lucy Grattan and Toby Manley. Although just four in this ensemble piece the cast bring to life a whole host of characters as well as our 10 flappy- armed friends. Busily occupying props and costumes en masse you would be forgiven for thinking there were many more performers than there actually are. With a magical ending too good to give away this fast moving brand new piece is an inventive theatrical melee that injects bursts of song in between its neat script.

Zoe Squire’s quirky design sets the action in a 1950s MGM inspired golden era that feels more American than British and simple but effective penguin puppetry by Nick Barnes allows the actors to switch easily between narrators, caricatures and puppeteers. Luke Bateman’s score and witty lyrics by Ricky Hughes allow the story to fly despite the penguins not being able to do so. With a simple yet lovely ethos about following your dreams and not paddling in still water, this show puts a great big smile on your face and might make you begin to clear out a space in your own fridge just in case.

Perhaps a little too clever for its age range of 3+ it would be recommended for children maybe a little older.

Runs until 10January 2016 | Image: Contributed

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