‘Mr. Popper’s Penguins’ will dance way into audience’s hearts during Amarillo Little Theatre production

“Mr. Popper’s Penguins” has a philosophical line that helps encapsulate the essence of the classic 1938 children’s book by Richard and Florence Atwater: Now, a penguin may look very strange in a living room, but a living room looks very strange to a penguin.

 

The line gives an inside peek into The Amarillo Little Theatre Academy’s upcoming production of “Mr. Popper’s Penguins,” running Friday through Sunday. It’s a perfect winter story that families will love, according to Director Jason Crespin.

The production — a period piece set in the 1930s, — tells the story of a family who is struggling to make ends meet until a highly unusual gift appears that changes the fortunes of Mr. Popper and his family, Crespin said.

What ensues is a highly irregular and very profitable change in circumstances for Mr. Popper and his family to the tune of tap-dancing penguins and a hit vaudeville show that goes international.

According to Crespin, Mr. Popper is an out-of-work painter who listens to a radio show about explorer Admiral Drake’s adventures and finds himself in the middle of his own unexpected adventure after receiving an extraordinarily interesting response to a fan letter he has written to the Admiral.

A “package” sent to Mr. Popper from the Admiral sets in motion a series of events when a penguin — the gift from the Admiral — comes to stay with Mr. Popper and his family, Crespin said.

Before all is said and done, Mr. Popper’s penguin will gain a female mate thanks to the zoo and ultimately ten toe-tapping penguins will dance their way into audience’s hearts, according to Crespin.

The play features younger actors between 7 and 10 years old, and the production crew features 31 ALT Academy students.

“It’s fun to see the young kids in their parts tapping their toes off,” Crespin said.

It has also been an opportunity and a fun process for the actors in the production to learn a little about history and what it was like to live in the 1930’s, according to Crespin.

What was hard to grasp for some of the younger cast members was the concept of no television in the home, with the only entertainment consisting of a radio around which the family gathers, Crespin said.

ALT will be sticking close to the time period of the book, including period costuming, hair, and bringing in an authentic radio as part of the set, according to Crespin.

Carla Fristoe will serve as the production’s assistant director, Maddie Todd is its music director, Reilly Brown will serve as choreographer and Kaycee Humphrey and Noah Lang are production assistants.

The Amarillo community will enjoy this show, Crespin said, noting that “Anyone who has fallen in love with the book will fall in love with the stage production version.”

How to go

What: Amarillo Little Theatre Academy’s “Mr. Popper’s Penguins”

Where: Amarillo Little Theatre Adventure Space, 2751 Civic Circle

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 2:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

How much: $12; $10 under 12 (Friday and Sunday shows sold out)

Information: 806355-9991; amarillolittletheatre.org

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