REVIEW: Was the Winnie the Pooh Musical Better than Hamilton?!

Disney has had no shortage of incredible staged productions.

The Lion King on Broadway ©Disney

From Disney’s Tony Award-winning Broadway shows like The Lion King, Aladdin, and Frozen, to fan-favorite Disney Parks productions like The Festival of the Lion King and Fantasmic!, Disney is an entertainment juggernaut on stage as well as on screens. In fall 2021, a new Disney musical premiered Off-Broadway, and it’s as sweet as live theater can get.

Winnie the Pooh, The New Musical Stage Adaptation opened at Theatre Row in New York City on October 21st, 2021. The play features Winnie the Pooh‘s beloved characters, songs from across Pooh’s filmography, and endearing performances. Plus, it might be the best live theatre we’ve seen since Hamilton. 

Winnie the Pooh on Theatre Row!

The story follows Pooh, who upon realizing Christopher Robin has left for school, is on the search for a smackerel of honey. Tale as old as time, right? Along the way, he encounters not only his friends: Piglet, Tigger, Eeyore, Owl, Rabbit, Kanga, and Roo, but also the changing seasons in the Hundred Acre Wood. As the seasons change, Pooh makes a new friend out of the elusive Miss Winter, accidentally destroys Rabbit’s garden in a bouncing lesson, and even gets stuck in a honey tree (which is pretty much the Stan Lee cameo of Winnie the Pooh media.) The story is simple and incorporates bits and pieces of classic Pooh storylines that make the show feel instantly nostalgic, without feeling repetitive.

The Hundred Acre Wood Theater sign in Theatre Row

The production design of the show was perfectly tailored to a quaint, charming, and joyful story in the Hundred Acre Wood. The stage isn’t too big, yet has so many details and distinct areas that you feel like you’ve traversed the whole woods by the end of the play. The set design is whimsical and evokes the comfort of a storybook. The bark on the trees peels back like sheets of paper, and the lighting/projection design paints the stage in watercolors. The set is natural and earthy, while still having soft textures and colors that make you know you’re in the Hundred Acre Wood before the musical even starts.

Stage Set before Winnie the Pooh

The music in this show was enough to make any classic Pooh fan emotional, and enough to make younger Pooh fans practically experts in the silly ol’ bear. Classic Sherman brothers songs made an appearance in the play like Winnie the Pooh, The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers, and A Rather Blustery Day, and seasoned Pooh fanatics will recognize The Whoop-Dee-Dooper Bounce from The Tigger Movie, The More it Snows from Piglet’s Big Movie, and even the theme from the television show The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. The music is one of the most memorable aspects of classic Pooh films, and this play had memorable tunes as well as hidden gems that are finally getting their chance to shine!

Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, and Eeyore plushes all modeled after the puppets from the musical!

However, the real stars of the show are the puppets, and the actors behind them, who were so good we forgot they were there. It’s no question that the puppets are adorable, but their function and design lend themselves to the personalities of the characters. For example, Pooh’s short little legs force him to have a cute little shuffle to get around. Eeyore’s body works almost like a seesaw, and the clunky transfer of weight in the puppet matches his lack of enthusiasm. Owl has giant wings that not only allow him to seem like he’s flying but also make his gestures over the top, much like his ramblings.

©Disney Theatrical Productions

And of course, the puppets would be nothing without the incredible performers operating them. It was easy to be skeptical of actors taking on these roles that are so recognizable and beloved, but the minute Jake Bazel opened his mouth as Pooh, we were completely sold. His Pooh voice was spot on, and he also mastered the bear’s comedic timing. He delivered an earnest Pooh, full of his blissful unawareness, innocence, and charm.

Credit: Rockefeller Productions/ Photos by Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade

Another standout performance was that of Emmanuel Elpenord who played Eeyore, Rabbit, and Owl. Talk about range. Each of these characters were so distinct that if we didn’t see Elpenord holding the puppets, we could have believed he was three different actors. Eeyore had us cracking up the entire show with his self-aware gloominess, you could feel the stress radiating off of Rabbit, and Owl was as extra and talkative as ever. Elpenord’s performance was varied and impressive, and he was always able to set the perfect tone for whichever scene he was in.

Credit: Rockefeller Productions/ Photos by Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade

Chris Palmeri also gave an incredibly energetic performance as Tigger, and Kirsty Moon was adorable as Piglet and Roo! At the top of the show, it was understood that the characters on stage were puppets being operated by actors, but a little while in, we stopped seeing puppets or actors and just saw the characters. You could not convince us that it wasn’t actually Pooh on that stage. Our disbelief was completely suspended as we sat in the theater with our old friends from the Hundred Acre Wood.

Credit: Rockefeller Productions/ Photos by Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade

If you couldn’t already tell, we really loved this show. It was everything we loved about Winnie the Pooh: silly, sweet, and heartfelt. It was an amazing piece of children’s theatre, but as many Pooh fans will tell you, his wisdom is timeless. No matter what stage you’re at in your life, odds are one of Pooh’s -isms can most likely make your day just a little bit brighter. Pooh’s optimism and joy is exactly what we need right now, and Winnie the Pooh: The New Musical Stage Adaptation was the perfect dose of it. It’s playing at Theater Row in New York city through January 30th. Stay tuned to AllEars for all the latest Disney news!

Click here to see our Review of ‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’

Join the Newsletter to stay on top of ALL the breaking Disney News! You'll also get access to AllEars tips, reviews, trivia, and MORE! Click here to Subscribe!

Click below to subscribe

Have you seen the Winnie the Pooh Musical? Let us know in the comments! 

Trending Now

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

One Reply to “REVIEW: Was the Winnie the Pooh Musical Better than Hamilton?!”