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A ‘Morsel of Joy’: Seattle Children’s Theatre’s ‘Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! The Musical!’

Bird with an existential crisis keeps kids and grown-ups laughing

Published on: April 11, 2022

Actors performing in a scene from Seattle Children's Theatre's production of "Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! The Musical"
Debora Crabbe, Nigel Rowe, Keith Richards, Caroline Dubberly and Carl Williams in SCT's 2022 production of “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! The Musical!” Photo by Angela Sterling

I had a preschooler who loved all things Mo Willems, and we had planned to go see “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!” at Seattle Children’s Theatre back in 2020.

Then COVID-19 happened and dragged on for far longer than anyone expected — remember when we thought we were shutting down for two weeks? Two years later, “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! The Musical!” finally opened at SCT.

I worried that we’d aged out of the ‘Pigeon’ demographic. But that would be underestimating Mo Willems.

Willems adapted his No. 1 New York Times–bestselling, Caldecott Honor–award-winning picture book to the stage. He wrote the snappy lyrics to the musical, too — is there anything this guy can’t do?

‘Pigeon’ is clearly aimed at little kids, but Willems’ wit keeps everyone in the audience rolling. Even the adults completely lost it.

By the end, everyone is clapping and singing along. Spoiler: “Can I fly the plane?” Pigeon sings. “No! No!” the audience shouts back.

I don’t think I’m giving away too much when I say the plotline of “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!” is about a pigeon who really, really wants to drive the bus. Together with the bus driver and three hilarious passengers, Pigeon sings, dances and flaps through an hour of fun.

The six cast members perform with the Kennedy Center Theater for Young Audiences on Tour. Sylvern Groomes Jr. and Carl Williams star as the beloved and slightly neurotic Pigeon. But it was the officially official bus driver (played by Debora Crabbe) who stole the show with her standout voice.

The engine sound effects, which come from an actor (Lauren Davis) at a side window, are truly next-level. Did you think Mo Willems was going to settle for a simple “Vroom, vroom”?

One of the passengers, a little old lady (played by Caroline Dubberly), is in a hurry to get to the hospital to see her new granddaughter, Trixie. (A nod to the protagonist of the “Knuffle Bunny” series, Trixie is the name of Mo Willems’ real-life kid.) “I’ve got to get there soon,” she says. “Children grow up so fast.”

Isn’t that the truth.

Pandemic babies and pandemic tots have grown up these past two years without the hallmarks of childhood: no story time at the library; no toddler gym at the community center; no plays at the Seattle Children’s Theatre. And now the world is opening up, mask-optional, your options get even narrower.

Take heart! SCT is still requiring masks indoors and still checking vaccination cards. Those measures add a much-appreciated layer of safety for the littlest theater-goers.

“Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!” is a great choice for introducing kids to the theater. It’s funny, it’s peppy and it’s just about an hour long — the perfect length for pint-sized attention spans. If your babe gets grumpy, there’s even a cry room in the back so you won’t miss the show.

‘Pigeon’ is SCT’s third production by Willems, following “Elephant & Piggie’s ‘We Are in a Play!’” in 2015 and the SCT-commissioned “Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed: The Rock Experience” in 2018.

On the opening night of ‘Pigeon,’ we noticed that SCT didn’t hand out programs, which we always like leafing through while waiting for the lights to dim. You can find the program and an active audience guide online.

Another change we noticed is that kids used to be able to come up to the stage after the show and get autographs from the cast. Totally understandable why they’re not doing that right now, but the cast was always so sweet with the kids. We miss that extra element of the experience.

We’re so glad to see SCT back. Pair your theater outing with a stop at the thrilling Artists at Play playground and a morsel of joy from the hot dog stand for an amazingly amazing day.

Age recommendation: SCT recommends this show for ages 5 and older. We think preschoolers would love it, too!

Run time: 55 minutes, no intermission.

If you go …

When: “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! The Musical!" plays through May 22, 2022.

Where: Seattle Children’s Theatre is located at 201 Thomas St., Seattle, on the west side of Seattle Center. This show plays in SCT’s main Charlotte Martin Theatre.

Tickets: $20–$50; buy tickets online for best availability. Before the pandemic, SCT introduced pricing tiers. Patrons can select their preferred ticket price, subject to availability. The tiers are premium ($35 child, $40 adult), standard ($25 child, $30 adult) and value ($20 child, $25 adult). Select “value” from the dropdown menu on the ticket page to find the cheaper tickets. There are a limited number available for each performance. Also, you can buy $25 tickets to any performance in the first two weeks with the code PIGEON25.

Accessibility: SCT offers an ASL-interpreted and audio-described show (Saturday, April 16) as well as a sensory-friendly show (Sunday, April 24). Wheelchair and companion seating are available; check the theater’s accessibility page.

Show resources: SCT’s audience guide provides reading recs and at-home activities related to the play.

Safety protocols: SCT requires masks for everyone ages 2 and older, as well as proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test for everyone ages 5 and older. Read more details online.

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