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'Pooh' rollicking fun for 3-year-olds


The "kids of all ages" rhetoric won't wash here, Mom and Dad.

The Moonlight Troupers production of "Winnie the Pooh," which winds up its run this weekend at Anne Arundel Community College's Pascal Center, is strictly for the little ones.

They won't much care if the Act I script is weaker than Clinton on Bosnia. Or if the obnoxious background noise of buzzing bees blots out most of the opening scene. Or if the din of chattering, nattering 3-year-olds does away with other portions of the dialogue.

They won't. All that will matter is that splendidly costumed actors will talk to them before and after the show. And that the performers are personable, energetic and very much interested in striking up a relationship with them.

A weak script? "Oh bother," as Pooh would say.

A few slow scenes and a noisy audience? "A terrible picklement," but hardly an insurmountable problem. For Winnie the Pooh is in town, and the kids are going to love him.

The plot? You've got to be kidding, so let's get right to the performances, which, for the most part, are quite adept and very, very cute.

Charlie Rogers is adorable as the rotund bruin whose passion for play is exceeded only by his lust for honey. He displays a true gift for physical comedy, especially in Act II, when Pooh gets stuck in all sorts of funny positions.

He is complemented by Christy Behlke, a howl as the kvetchy, dyspeptic Piglet, who is deathly afraid -- with good reason -- that she'll be snatched up by the imperiously maternal Kanga as a permanent playmate for her little Roo.

Debbie Cooke is the very model of a co-dependent marsupial, and Betsy Garner is oh-so-cuddly as Roo, Kanga's feisty, baby-talking offspring.

You'll also admire Patrick Bussink as the innocent, Linus-like Christopher Robin.

Agnes Deyle's Eeyore and David McManus' Owl weren't always audible amid the cries of young voices from the audience, but both did a commendable job of staying in physical character in very difficult circumstances. In fact, the entire assemblage of rabbits, mice, skunks, tigers, raccoons and squirrels scurried about the stage with great elan from beginning to end.

So enjoy this one vicariously, Mom and Dad. For the younger set, Pooh will definitely carry the day.

"Winnie the Pooh" will be performed this evening at 7:30, tomorrow at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. Call 541-2457 for reservations.

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