Manners, Messes, and Marmalade: Paddington Gets in a Jam Comes to the Stage
The accident-prone bear brings his butterfingered antics to the DR2 Theater.
For decades, Paddington has been entertaining young audiences on both sides of the pond in books, TV shows, cartoons, and movies. His creator, Michael Bond, came up with the idea for the character in 1956 when he saw a stuffed bear sitting alone on a store shelf on Christmas Eve. He bought the bear, gave it to his wife as a present, and named it Paddington.
Since then, Bond's stories about the friendly but clumsy bear have grown in popularity with kids and adults. He loves marmalade and carries a jar of it in his suitcase in case he needs an emergency marmalade sandwich. He is very polite, and anyone who breaches decorum receives a hard stare. But he's also terribly accident-prone. When he's around, expect things to topple.
Jonathan Rockefeller has brought Paddington to the stage for the first time in a funny 50-minute show, Paddington Gets in a Jam, now running at the DR2 Theater. At the performance I attended, little ones — from infants to 10-year-olds — giggled and squealed at the antics of Paddington as he unintentionally ransacked the house of his cranky neighbor, Mr. Curry (A.J. Ditty).
When Paddington runs out of sugar one day, he asks Mr. Curry for a cup to make some jam, but his neighbor is in no mood for distractions as he gets ready for the arrival of his scowling, critical Aunt Matilda. Disaster seems to follow Paddington wherever he goes, though. It's not long before he upends the kitchen, floods the bathroom, and ruins the bedroom wallpaper (the charming dollhouse of a set was designed by Peter R. Feuchtwanger and David Goldstein). Yet when Aunt Matilda (Jess Bulzacchelli) arrives with the house in disarray, Paddington finds a way to make even the grouchiest people smile.
Paddington Gets in a Jam has all the makings of a funny show geared toward young ones, but Rockefeller directs Doug Kmiotek's script with more reserve than you might expect for a show with so much silly slapstick. Paddington (a large puppet operated by Jake Bazel, John Cody, and Kirsty Moon) plods steadily from one mishap to the next, and the slow pace sometimes dampens the otherwise humorous moments where we might expect more engagement and giggles from the young audience.
Still, after a bit, kids warm up to the characters and begin laughing and talking to them. A couple of times during the show, my avuncular protective instincts were set off, when Paddington massaged his face with a running hand blender and later used an electric hair dryer in the recently flooded bathroom. Parents might want to tell kids that neither of these things is a good idea, or the production might want to consider cutting them. Those reservations aside, Paddington Gets in a Jam is a fun introduction to live theater for little ones and provides a good lesson in the importance of saying "please" and "thank you," even when others might not be as polite.