Mr. Popper’s Penguins at CTC — Review and Parental Guidance


Not for the first time, I left Children’s Theatre after Mr. Popper’s Penguins wishing that they sold soundtracks in their gift shop. I left the show singing, but by the time I got home, the song had morphed into some other song. Because the music was fun and catchy, I found this play to be a fun way to re-introduce my 4-year-old to live performances after a couple less-than-successful experiences.

Mr. Popper's Penguins

Monica Nash, Susanna Jennings, Christopher Finn, and Richard Holt in ‘Mr. Popper’s Penguins’ | Photo by Dan Norman

Mr. Popper’s Penguins

Mr. Popper’s Penguins loosely follows the book story line. However, much of the conflict is removed and the characters of the Popper children are left out of this version, all together. Instead Mr. and Mrs. Popper adopt the penguins as their surrogate children. I don’t believe you need to read the book before going to the show. In fact, I wouldn’t read the book at all with a preschooler, but would use the play to encourage reading the story after the fact for older kids.

Because there is not a huge focus on conflict and drama in this play, the focus is on the music and puppetry, which were both wonderful. I wished that I could add several of the songs to my regular playlists. The hour went by really fast for us because the musical numbers were so enjoyable.

The entire play and all of its characters are acted out by 4 actors, sharing the roles of puppeteers. It is really fun to watch them change characters with a minimum of wardrobe alterations. They were convincing enough, that I’m unsure my daughter realized there were only four actors. If you are a regular to CTC, you may have noticed that none of the actor’s in this production are familiar. Trust me, they live up to CTC standards.


Parental Guidance for Mr. Popper’s Penguins

Children’s Theatre recommends this play for ages 3 and up. I think this is accurate. This is the first production that my 4-year-old has been able to sit through since she was a baby. By “sit through” I mean stay in the theater without being overly disruptive. She did not actually sit through more than 10 minutes. She did make it the full hour without forcing me to take her out. Yay!!

There is nothing scary or disturbing in this play. There is a lot of singing and dancing, scenes are short and conflict is mild and resolved quickly. The show ended on a fun note that really stuck with my daughter. The next morning she was still talking and excited about it.

Stretching Your Fun! 

After the show, consider a trip to the zoo to watch the penguins yourself.  Both the Minnesota Zoo and Como Zoo have penguin exhibits.

CTC Goes to the Zoo! from Childrens Theatre Company on Vimeo.

About Mr. Popper’s Penguins

It’s hard enough for Mr. Popper, a modest painter, to support himself and his wife, and the unexpected addition of ten penguins makes it even tougher. But then! The imaginative Popper turns his talented penguins into a traveling vaudeville act. They sing! They dance! They become a theatrical sensation and give a must-see Penguiny performance! Applause! Applause! This play shows you a wild and witty way to follow your dreams.

Runs January 15 through February 24, 2019
Children’s Theatre Company,  2400 Third Ave S, Minneapolis

Tickets: $15.00 to $69.00

Mr. Popper's Penguins

Christopher Finn and Richard Holt in ‘Mr. Popper’s Penguins’ | Photo by Dan Norman

Final Thoughts on Mr. Popper’s Penguins

I would recommend taking a moment to download the Audience Resource Guide (PDF) before going. The usual pre-show activities in the program didn’t include any writing or coloring activities this time. I tend to count on those to help the kids settle in before the show starts. You’ll find these activities and more in the resource guide. This will also lead you to the Hennepin County Library list of suggested reading. Again, I didn’t think these books were quite appropriate for preschoolers, but we stopped and picked up some Penguin picture books on our way home.


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