“It wasn’t one of those sad plays,” said my 8-year-old daughter, summing up Pippi Longstocking: The Family Musical for her sister, who stayed home. It’s safe to say that Seattle Children’s Theatre’s production of Pippi, which opened last weekend, is a perfect antidote to the realities of everyday life, from reading the headlines in the paper to the daily chore of attending school.
If you are already a fan of the Pippi Longstocking books by Astrid Lindgren, you know why this this is true. “No school, no parents, no bedtime or rules. With her mom in the clouds and her dad at sea, Pippi’s on her own to live as she pleases,” reads the Seattle Children’s Theatre synopsis.
From the moment Pippi (played by Molli Corcoran) bursts onto stage, it’s clear to see this character is more than a glass-half-full girl: she’s brimming over with delight. “I’m Pippilotta Delicatessa Windowshade Mackrelmint Ephraim's Daughter Longstocking,” she sings while dancing in front of the cottage she shares with her pet monkey and horse. Being a glass-half-empty gal myself, I was a bit leery of this character’s big smile even as I loved her colorful costume and drawn-on freckles. Who gleefully tells everyone about her mother who watches her from heaven?
It didn’t take long for Pippi to win me over. First she befriends the neighbor kids, and it’s clear that everyone — no matter their age — yearns for a friend like Pippi. Her optimism is tendered with a generosity of spirit that can’t be faked. She proves she is the strongest girl by wrestling the strongman at the circus. And she fills the theater with laughter as she tells us how she puts herself to sleep. Pippi pretends she is a mother, telling herself to go to sleep first gently, and then with more and more annoyance, until she looks like a mother desperate for solitude as she yells at herself to get to sleep already!
This musical version adapted by Sebastiean and Staggan Gotestam is full of mirth, bright and charming costumes and a stage set that takes us from Pippi’s cottage to the circus, the school room, an afternoon tea, and a pirate ship. Watch as Pippi outsmarts burglars, avoids the orphanage, and turns everyday happenings into hilarious events. The cast of characters that share the stage with her are well-drawn, too, making for more laughter.
This is physical comedy at its best. Take an independent girl raised on a pirate ship and plop her into society. “You’ll learn the ropes soon,” her friend Tommy says to her after yet another string of mishaps. As an audience member who plans on finally reading this series of books, I certainly hope Pippi never learns the ropes.
If you go …
Where and when: Pippi Longstocking: The Family Musical plays at the Seattle Children’s Theatre through November 3.
Tickets: Up to $36. Buy online.
Parental guidelines: The show is recommended for ages 5 and up, although younger children who can sit through a 90-minute play with one intermission will enjoy this lighthearted show, too.
About the author: Writer, editor, and writing coach Nancy Schatz Alton is finishing the last draft of her memoir about the beginning of Annie’s learning journey. She is co-author of two holistic health care guides: "The Healthy Back Book" and "The Healthy Knees Book." When not navigating parenthood, she uses her brain power to write, edit, and fact-check articles for websites and magazines. She lives in Ballard with her husband and two elementary-age daughters. Find her blog at Within the Words .