Written by Lindy Hart.
Kevin McCallister from “Home Alone” could learn a lot from Pippi Longstocking! Half a century before Kevin was fighting off holiday burglars, Swedish author Astrid Lindgrin was beginning a series of books about a red-headed, pig-tailed, freckled face girl who outwits, outruns and out does all comers who try to take advantage of her young years or, worse yet, rein in her imagination.
The latest offering of Lakewood Playhouse and Lakewood Institute of Theatre is an entertaining and inspirational production directed and music directed by the talented Deborah L Armstrong. In addition to working with a skilled ensemble of 21 double and triple cast kids with a few grown-ups, she and choreographer Leslie Diamond have taken care to provide an evening of accurate cultural Swedish touches to the mid-19th century village of Vibble, Sweden. The cast members shine especially bright when they sing and dance together in the Swedish way.
Singing and dancing, however, are not the only delightful aspects of this production. Pippi’s two story house, complete with a root cellar, is quaint and deceptively architecturally sound. In fact it functions like an Olympic gymnast’s heaven in which chases and endless pranks of daring-do are accomplished by athletic singer-dancer actress Makenna Mae Kelpman. In fact, Makenna could be Lakewood’s own Simone Biles! She commands all her stage business with composure and confidence and ropes us in with those ruby pig-tails by her brash displays of humor and unabashed honesty. In fact everyone who enters Villa Villekulla learns a life lesson from Pippi. Ms. Kelpman’s performance is not to be missed.
Special thanks to Audrey LaRoy for her ballet dancing, puppeteering, singing, ensemble dancing and acting. She and Matt Kelley as Pippi’s Angel Mama and Pirate Papa create a joyous atmosphere of love around their darling in a dream sequence that is so tender and memorable the audience understands that Pippi is never truly alone, even when they are gone.
Theatre-goers should be prepared for a treat right at the top of the show. The curtain speech is interpreted in Swedish for the enrichment of all who have Swedish ancestry and for all who don’t but wish they did.
This production is a true ensemble of wonderful actors. Two school children, Annika and Tommy, played by Julianna Guzman-Ferreira and Nigel Kelley, the friends so true to Pippi that she is willing to stay with them and discover more about the meaning of friendship. Julianna and Nigel are believable and so honestly vulnerable that audience members find themselves silently hoping against hope they won’t lose Pippi to her father’s life of wild adventures. It’s a delicate moment and they handle it beautifully. Finally, the wonderful ladies who play the coffee party Mom and guests; and the remarkable social worker who follows Pippi’s journey, all further the plot with their exceptional singing, dancing and acting.
The artists on stage and those behind the scenes make it a delight to be in the same room with an internationally iconic little girl who teaches us all what might happen if we are willing to give our dreams a go. Make it a priority to attend this show – support and commit to the Lakewood organizations that provide for the training and experience of the upcoming generation of artists in our community. You’ll be glad you did! Pippi Longstocking runs one more weekend till November 3rd. Call 253-588-0042 for ticket reservations or visit online – tix6.centerstageticketing.com/sites/lakewoodplayhouse/event-details.php?e=191.