American family classic in Chichester's Minerva Theatre

Painter and decorator by day, Mr Popper spends his time dreaming of Antarctic adventures.

Monday, 5th December 2016, 9:22 am
Updated Thursday, 7th June 2018, 6:09 pm
Russell Morton (Mr Popper), Toby Manley (Male Puppeteer) & Lucy Grattan (Female Puppeteer) Credit Helen Murray
Russell Morton (Mr Popper), Toby Manley (Male Puppeteer) & Lucy Grattan (Female Puppeteer) Credit Helen Murray

He is astounded when one day a packing crate arrives on his doorstep, out of which waddles a penguin…

Find out what happens next in Chichester’s Minerva Theatre from December 7-11 (ages three and up; running time approx 55 mins).

Endearing puppets recreate a family of penguins, and songs add to the charm. A musical adaptation of Richard and Florence Atwater’s popular book (also made into a Hollywood film starring Jim Carrey), the show is brought to you by the producers of The Tiger Who Came to Tea and We’re Going on a Bear Hunt.

Lucy Grattan, both puppeteer and actor in the piece, promises a show full of heart – and a show which stops off in Chichester on its way to the West End for Christmas, off the back of a three-week stint on Broadway in October/November.

“I like to joke that it is a very high-brow piece and it deals with all the big themes, but it really does have a massive heart, and I had some of my main girlfriends coming to see it in New York, and they came out with a few tears! It is very touching.”

It was particularly fun to take it to the States and watch the differences between UK and US audiences: “We were three weeks on Broadway, and it just felt such a huge privilege. It was incredible. It was interesting to see the different audiences. The American children are a lot more vocal. They were incredibly enthusiastic about the show, so much so that we started getting egos, I am not going to lie! But they were incredibly sweet. They were wanting photos afterwards.

“I think maybe English children are a bit more restrained. But they are still very vocal, which is one of the great things about this show because you want it to be more of a mutual transaction with the audience. But definitely the American children will let you know how they feel about what is going on!

“We opened the show in Manchester last year. We spent three weeks devising it as a company, and it went down a storm.

“The artistic director of the theatre in New York came to see it, and then they have decided that we are going into the West End this Christmas.

“The Jim Carrey film is very much a contemporary adaptation.

“The book is a very traditional white-picket-fence story about a man who dreams of being a polar explorer. That’s where his imaginary world resides. He listens to an explorer on the radio and he writes to him, and one day this package turns up… or rather a large crate… and out pop these penguins.

“We had people in Manchester wanting their money back because they were not real penguins! What can you do! But they are fantastic, lovely puppets, and it is amazing how children love puppets.”

It’s very much part of American childhood. as Lucy explains.

“It was a story book written in the 1930s in America, and in New York we had lots of people coming up to us saying they were read it by their parents when they were children and they are now reading it to their children in turn.

“It is huge for so many people over there.

“We didn’t do it in American accents. It was quite a bold move to take a really traditional American story and adapt it in an English context and then take it to Broadway! But it worked!”

Tickets for Mr Popper’s Penguins on

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