Winnie the Pooh and his friends come to Walton Arts Center Oct. 21-22

Winnie the Pooh and his friends come to Walton Arts Center Oct. 21-22

According to Jonathan Rockefeller, creator of the new musical version of “Disney’s Winnie the Pooh,” two age groups are its biggest fans. The under-1o crowd you might expect, but the second group is 20 or older, attending without kids.

“It’s so wonderful to see they love it as much as anybody younger,” Rockefeller says. “And I’ve been in the audience when a wonderful couple in their 70s were having a date night! She brought the original [stuffed] Winnie the Pooh she had from when she was a kid, and she was absolutely delighted to meet the characters on stage after the show!”

Rockefeller and his Rockefeller Productions company are known for giving new life to beloved children’s stories. They’ve earned global acclaim for their productions of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show,” based on the books by author/illustrator Eric Carle, and New York Times Critic’s Pick “Paddington Gets in a Jam,” both of which resulted in Drama Desk and Off-Broadway Alliance nominations. “Sesame Street the Musical,” a brand new Off-Broadway stage adaption, premiered at New York City’s Theatre Row this fall, and the new version of “Winnie the Pooh” coming Oct. 21-22 to the Walton Arts Center is presented with puppets, which Rockefeller says take on their own lives in audience’s minds.

“In five minutes, there are no puppeteers at all. They just pay attention to the puppets.”

Before the script was even finished, Rockefeller says, puppeteers were defining what the characters could be and do.

“We call them ‘rocketeers,’” he says of the puppet manipulators. “When they showed us Tigger could leap 4 feet into the air, we wanted to write that into the script. Everybody in the room was excited!

“The way we approach every work we do, we put ourselves into the mindset of a child,” Rockefeller explains. “If I was a 5-year-old kid, what would I like to see? In doing that, what we want to also do is ignite the excitement of every child within the adult, get them to break free and remember what it’s like to be a kid. We want the show to be accessible in many layers, with jokes that you get as a 5-year-old and as an adult.

“It’s a lot of responsibility. So many people have opinions and thoughts and feelings about these characters, and rightly so, because they mean so much to the audience.”

Rockefeller’s new production considered all of the favorite stories from the Hundred Acre Wood — from Honey Trees to Heffalumps, the news release says — and features some of the great classic Disney Winnie the Pooh songs from the last 50 years. While times change, “kids are always kids,” Rockefeller says.

“Parenting is different,” he says. “But kids are still like little sponges. A lot of parents tell us they couldn’t believe their child sat through the entire show. But if you make sure something is interesting, exciting, different, that there’s depth, you get kids highly invested in the characters and their journeys. We hope we’re also encouraging parents to put down their phone and be engaged in the moment.”

While “Winnie the Pooh” is touring the United States, headed for the West End in London next year, Rockefeller says “Sesame Street the Musical” is also delighting audiences — and he’s loving it, too. He grew up in Australia watching the show there.

“It’s so wonderful to see those characters on stage in this way for the first time,” he says, “singing all the songs we grew up with and new ones from some incredibly talented Broadway composers. It’s a little bit more of a rave party — with Cookie Monster right in front!”



‘Disney’s Winnie the Pooh:

The New Musical Stage Adaptation’

WHEN — 7 p.m. Oct. 21; 11 a.m. & 2 & 7 p.m. Oct. 22

WHERE — Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville

COST — $20-$45

INFO — 443-5600 or

FYI — Books for kids donated in a drive coordinated with Once Upon a Time Books in Springdale will be donated to Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter.

Categories: Family Friendly