Eeyore has lost his tail! How can he enjoy Christmas without it? Not to fear, here came Winnie the Pooh and her courageous lot of colorful friends to the rescue in the Ryan Repertory Company's production of A Winnie the Pooh Christmas Tail, at the Harry Warren Theatre in Brooklyn. All aboard, kids! The search was on. The cartoon characters found the tail after looking in all the usual places at the owl's house (she thought it would make a good doorbell latch -- it happens) and got a lot of singing and dancing done in the interim.
Marie Ingrisano played an adorable leading lady as Winnie the Pooh and belted out a beautiful soprano voice (a bit unexpected in comparison to the original Pooh) with rollicking numbers like "Think Yourself Up" and "Colors."
Noelle Neglia (with the physical characteristics of the ultimate showgirl) did a fair portrayal of Kanga, the mother kangaroo who can't stop bragging about her little baby kangaroo (the other characters in the play find that annoying, too) and Owl, the character who accidentally took Eeyore's tail. Both songs seemed a little out of range for the performer, who could obviously sing.
Aside from Ingrisano's voice, one of the most impressive parts of the show was the performance by Daniel Ojeda, who played the essential role of Christopher Robin. The young boy's acting and energy throughout the show were extremely focused and polished for so young an actor.
The talented James Martinelli played Eeyore and Tigger. His scene with Piglet (Lena J. Gilbert), where he accepts the burst red balloon, was one of the most memorable moments in the play. Gilbert's destruction of the balloon was extremely realistic.
Jill Shooman played the Rabbit, who is one of those leader types who needs to be in charge of any and everything. The actress played her role with aplomb and had the best costume in the show.
John Sannuto's choreography was first-rate in all the scenes, and his use of the only stairway to the back of the house as part of the show was wonderful. "What Tiggers Do Best" was the best number in the show.
Although all of the costumes (Barbara Parisi) for the characters were inventive (especially Tigger's, whose mask recalled Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs), Ingrisano's seemed the least inspired.
Michale Pasternack's set design consisted of an owl's tree, a Christmas tree and a sturdy (we hope) stairway to the Owl's home.
The only distraction in the show was musical director Jay Shapiro's head moving about behind a not-so-hidden piano when he would go back for needed materials. But where else was there to put a piano. Behind a bigger Christmas tree, perhaps? This was definitely a children's show -- the writing was too slow-paced for an adult's attention span. Nevertheless, the evening was delightful.
Parisi also co-directed and created the minimal lighting design for the production.
For an evening of fun "in da neighborhood," families deep in the heart of Brooklyn need not travel all the way to Manhattan. Good, lighthearted entertainment can be found right at their doorstep.
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Copyright 2004 Jade Esteban Estrada