The first thing you ought to know about Tales of Beatrix Potter now showing at Puppet Co. Playhouse is that none of the tales is about Peter Rabbit. Make sure you prep your kids ahead of time and there’ll be no disappointment, because the three Potter tales that puppeteer Christopher Hudert does tell are just as charming.
“Two Bad Mice” was my one-year-old’s favorite since it starred a doll puppet whose doll playhouse is trashed by the aforementioned naughty rodents. (Toddlers love when things crash to the floor.) “Jeremy Fisher” was my four-year-old’s favorite because the main character was a frog who goes fishing and gets eaten by a large fish – or does he? And I’m not surprised “Jemima Puddle-Duck,” with its slightly more complex and longer narrative, was my seven-year-old’s favorite. In this final tale, silly Jemima Puddle-Duck meets a wily fox and appears to be heading for trouble, but she manages to outwit him in the end, with the help of a more savvy dog.
A young girl puppet serves as the narrative frame for all the stories: She supposedly is the one dreaming up the tales as she plays alone in her room, but my younger kids didn’t really get that.
Puppeteer Hudert tells the stories in full view onstage in an easygoing, Mister Rogers style, then seems to disappear as he expertly brings our focus and attention entirely on the hand puppet characters. He also cleverly uses shadow puppets, which add a kind of cinematic zing to the tales. All the hand puppets are cute and cuddly looking, like stuffies come to life.
Music runs throughout the stories, from a twinkly nursery-time score to a fun song sung by Jeremy Fisher that got my toddler dancing and waving her hands.
The show runs 45 minutes, but the younger kids in the audience started to get restless during the last 10 minutes of the show. I do think the show could have been edited a bit to keep the final story of Jemima Puddle-duck a little tighter. The show is recommended for ages Pre-K to Grade 4, but my one-year-old enjoyed the puppets and the music as well.
A house manager is on hand to occasionally say shush when the audience gets too rowdy. One little kid up front stood up and started looking for his mom halfway through the show, so the house manager picked him up and carried him back to where the adults sit. After the show, my kids were excited to see Hudert and Jemima Puddle-duck greeting playgoers on the way out.
With its adorable puppets, gentle humor, and sweet stories simply told, Tales of Beatrix Potter provides refreshingly old-school, unplugged entertainment.
What to Know
- The show runs through February 9, 2014. Showtimes are Fridays at 10 and 11:30 a.m., Saturdays and Sundays at 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.
- Tickets are $10 for ages 2 and up.
- The show is recommended for ages Pre-K to Grade 4 (though my one-year-old was mostly attentive the entire time). Restless kids can be taken out to the lobby, where two TVs display a live feed of the show.
- Seating in the theater is on the carpeted floor, first come, first served, with only kids allowed in the front half. Adults can sit either on the floor in the back half or on benches along the sides and back of the theater. (A kid sitting in the bench section has to be on an adult’s lap.)
- A line forms in the lobby before the doors open so if you want to sit up front, it helps to be one of the first in line. However, since the stage is elevated, some kids might find it better to sit a bit farther back to avoid craning their necks looking up at the stage the entire time. But it’s a small theater so really all seats are good.
- Strollers can’t be taken into the theater or lobby; you can park them outside the Puppet Co. building.
- The parking at Glen Echo is free and plentiful but it’s a five to ten minute walk from the parking lot to the theater.
- The Puppet Co. celebrates its 30th anniversary this year and upcoming productions are: Sleeping Beauty (Feb. 13-Mar. 23), Hansel and Gretel (Mar. 27-Apr.27), Pinocchio (May 1-June 8), and The Wizard of Oz (June 12-Jul. 20).
- Photo One: Puppeteer Christopher Hudert takes Jeremy Fisher fishing, but the fish may be fishing for him. Photo by Christopher Piper.
- Photo Two: A Foxy Gentleman wants Jemima Puddleduck to join him for dinner. Photo by Christopher Piper.