Pippi Longstocking, the mischievous, independent-minded youngster who thwarts authority for pleasure, has returned to the Children's Theatre stage with freshness and fun.
Director Peter Brosius' production, which opened over the weekend with newcomer Katie Adducci as the rambunctious title character, teems with physical humor, including door-slamming and pratfalls.
The show has a host of not-too-bright adult characters, including ineffective cops and incompetent robbers.
Outside of the stage, the story of "Pippi," adapted by Thomas W. Olson from Astrid Lindgren's classic children's books, would give child-welfare workers plenty to be worried about (and would lead the 10 o'clock news). Pippi's mother is in heaven, and her pirate-father is at sea. She lives in a multistory house with only a monkey and a horse for companions.
Pippi does make friends with two humans, age-mate neighbors Annika (Claire Elizabeth Hoffman) and Tommy (Ethan Davenport).
Brosius' gleeful revival of this oft-produced show in the company's repertory takes place in Joseph Stanley's storybook-style set. It is boisterous and bright (Rebecca Fuller Jensen lit the show). The music and lyrics, by Roberta Carlson and Olson, are not particularly memorable, but they do add to the show's zest.
Brosius' production is see-worthy for a host of reasons. First, choreographer Joe Chvala has infused it with lots of Swedish folk dances. Those moves, in a few big numbers, look good on the company. For her part, Adducci, an older looking Pippi, gives her character a blithe fearlessness and playful spirit. Whenever Pippi says her name in introductions, she throws in a series of cartwheels..
Adducci is surrounded by an ensemble of regulars who nail their idiosyncratic characters, even if we have seen shades of these performances in other shows. Autumn Ness' Mrs. Prysselius, a fuddy-duddy social worker, is no less funny for recalling, say, the old fogey Mrs. Cobb in "Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy."
The laughs that Dean Holt and Reed Sigmund evoke for their cops, and, separately, robbers, come from their chemistry developed over the past decade. These two actors could be stage successors to, say, Abbott and Costello.
Gerald Drake invests teacher Mr. Fridean with prim, clueless authority.
Brosius has cast Carl Schoenborn as carnival strongman the Mighty Adolph, Nora Montanez as Mrs. Longstocking and Miles Duffey as the carnival barker.
But everything comes back to Pippi, whose two braided pigtails go up like a bull's horns. She takes the role and rides it for loads of laughs.