What do you get when you mix energetic young actors with a collection of local stage veterans and give them a beloved story to tell?
A whole lot of fun, says Roderick Glanville, artistic director with Kaleidoscope Theatre for Young People, which is staging Pippi Longstocking from Dec. 28-30 at the McPherson Playhouse.
“This musical is really quite remarkable. It’s a fun frolicking adventure and no two scenes are the same,” he says.
The headstrong and fun-loving Pippi character was created by Swedish author Astrid Lindgren in the 1940s and has been played on stage thousands of times around the world in the decades since. The version being staged by Kaleidoscope, adapted for the stage by Sebastian and Staffan Götestam, was unfamiliar to Glanville when the company took it on. It was suggested as a potential project by a Kaleidoscope intern, who referred to the story by its German name, Pippi Langstrumpf.
Glanville recognized quickly, however, that this portrayal of Pippi, which captures her character by blending elements from various books, matched up well with the goals of the Victoria theatre group.
“What I love about Pippi Longstocking is it ties into all our themes of youth empowerment … it encourages Kaleidoscope’s mandate to encourage critical thinking in youth,” he says.
While the story was developed in Europe, the themes are universal, he adds. “What’s important is that Pippi’s mission statement is to play, and I think that’s what we need to encourage children to do, but also adults as well.”
Not only does this story tick all the boxes for the company, Glanville says – “it’s fun, funny and musical” – the cast and crew have been a delight to work with.
In the cast of 47 are seasoned local performers Danny Costain, Steve Ivings, Lena Palermo from Peninsula Players, Michael Forbes from the morning radio team Forbes and Marshall, and Tich Wilson in the title role.
They’re joined by a “rock solid” supporting cast of all ages that includes a pair of talented young up and comers in the roles of Pippi’s neighbours and best friends, Tommy and Annika.
The youngest actor in the company is age six and she joins her mother in the cast, one of three mother-daughter combos who are “on stage together creating,” Glanville notes. “It’s a great way for them to spend time together – they get a chance to play over the holidays.”
People familiar with the books or one of the handful of Pippi movies or shorts made over the years in English can be assured of seeing the character get up to her usual hijinks. Those scenes of fun and friendship, interspersed with beautiful and often touching songs accompanied by a live band, make this family production one not to miss over the holiday season.
The 90-minute shows (including intermission) happen Friday, Dec. 28 at 7 p.m. and on the weekend at 2 p.m. both Dec. 29 and 30. Tickets are $45 or $25 for students and children 16-under, available online at rmts.bc.ca, by phone at 250-386-6121 or in person at the Royal or McPherson box offices.