Image courtesy of Rockefeller Productions
Who has old-fashioned good manners, a happy-go-lucky disposition, and above all, a deep love for marmalade?
“I’m Paddington Brown, it’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance,” says the fuzzy bear with a wool toggle coat and red hat.
When this walking, talking version of the storybook bear enters the stage at Seattle Children’s Theatre, the audience gasps and claps.
“Paddington Saves Christmas” brings the beloved children’s book character to life on stage in a show opening Friday, Nov. 18, and playing through Dec. 31, 2022.
The bottom line: Paddington is so stinkin’ cute.
The plot line is simple. Paddington “helps” his neighbor, the woe-is-me Mr. Curry (Kenon Veno), prepare his home for a visit from his Great Aunt Matilda (Casey Andrews). As Paddington works his way through each room of Mr. Curry’s house, he leaves disaster after disaster in his wake. The kitchen, the living room, the bathroom and bedroom — all ruined.
The set, by the way, is an absolutely adorable dollhouse.
As he moves from task to task, Paddington emerges with one wonderful costume change after another. “In order to do the job, you must first look the part!” the bear says. Who doesn't like to play dress-up?
Paddington the helper
Poor Mr. Curry naively enlists Paddington’s help in madly cleaning before his holiday guest arrives. The very long list of chores includes dusting the foyer and counting the number of poppy seeds on the bread. Counting the number of poppy seeds on the bread??
“Are you sure all of this needs to be done for Christmas?” Paddington asks. Mothers everywhere with mile-long to-do lists roll on the floor laughing.
On the night we attended, the room that drew the biggest reaction was the bathroom, where Paddington’s bumbling ineptitude got the kids giggling and blurting out advice. Mr. Curry sends Paddington upstairs to the bathroom to fetch a bucket of soapy water. Paddington ponders, “Where’s the soap?” An audience member yells out, “You’re holding it!”
A very special bear
The last time SCT featured a bear in a principal role was in “Corduroy,” on stage during the 2019 holiday season. That actor wore a hat with bear ears, but he was clearly a person.
This time, the bear is a giant puppet, deftly managed by puppeteers crouching below. Because the bear’s mouth is permanently smiling, the puppeteers use body gestures to convey emotions. It’s impressive. In order for the puppeteers to remain hidden, the actors are restricted to the back wall of the stage, behind a pony wall.
At curtain call, we finally see the biggest stars of the show as they stand up: Kyle Mahoney, Anthony White and Ricky Downes III, the three actors who portray Paddington.
Parents should know
SCT rates this show as appropriate for ages 3 and older. One theater patron had to be carried out wailing when the vacuum cleaner sound came on. Another theater patron was carried out, held at arm’s length, the universal sign for “poopy diaper.” That tells you that the target audience of Paddington skews very young.
“Paddington Saves Christmas” is terrific for the toddler and preschool set. Older kids might find the pacing too babyish and the dialogue saccharine. (Paddington’s top three favorite things? Marmalade, saying please and thank you, and smiling. Insert tween eye-roll.)
Because this show is designed for the youngest patrons, this is a good opportunity to remind theater-goers there’s a cry room in the back where you can watch the show even if someone is having a meltdown. Also, make sure you snag a booster seat at the entrance to the theater so little kids can see over the person in the seat in front of them.
Note that masks are still required at SCT. If you’ve forgotten yours — which is easy to do since masks have been optional nearly everywhere else for months now — they have both adult and child-sized masks available. And SCT is serious about its mask policy. In the lobby after the show, a staff member sharply (and loudly) rebuked a young family, “Masks on in the theater!” A bit harsh, considering one of the offenders was a chubby-cheeked toddler.
The show ends with a cake smash for the final laugh. When the house lights came on, we looked at each other and said, “Wait, that’s it?” The run time of the show is advertised as 70 minutes, with no intermission, but the actual time of the preview performance we saw was 55 minutes.
Well, you know what they say, always leave them wanting a bit more.
If you go …
When: “Paddington Saves Christmas” opens Nov. 18 and plays through Dec. 31, 2022.
Tickets: $15–$50; buy tickets online for the best availability. SCT offers pricing tiers. Patrons can select their preferred ticket price, subject to availability. The tiers are premium ($35–$50 per adult, depending on the date and showtime, and $30–$45 per child); standard ($25–$40 per adult, $20–$35 per child) and value ($20–$35 per adult, $15–$25 per child). Select “value” from the dropdown menu on the ticket page to find the less expensive tickets. There are a limited number available for each performance.
Accessibility: SCT offers an ASL-interpreted performance (Saturday, Dec.10), an audio-described show (Saturday, Dec. 17) and a sensory-friendly show (Sunday, Dec. 11). Wheelchair and companion seating are available; check the theater’s accessibility page.
Age recommendation: SCT recommends this show for ages 3 and older.
Run time: About 70 minutes with no intermission.
Safety protocols: SCT continues to require masks for everyone ages 2 and older, though proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 are no longer required. Read more on SCT’s health and safety page.