Her full name is Pippilotta Delicatessa Windowshade Mackrelmint Ephraim’s Daughter Longstocking. But you can call her Pippi for short, which is the moniker several generations of young readers know her by.
The free-spirited, pigtailed little heroine of several books by Swedish writer Astrid Lindgren (and many movies and plays they inspired), Pippi is regaling a new wave of grade-schoolers with her impish adventures these days, in a colorfully mounted and frolicsome stage musical at Seattle Children’s Theatre.
In this song-strung adaptation of “Pippi Longstocking” by the Swedish team of Sebastian and Staffan Gotestam, the irrepressible Pippi is played with oodles of spunk and sass by Molli Corcoran — an adult actor doing a swell impression of a frisky and precocious 9-year-old.
Pippi lives large. And what kid wouldn’t, residing without parental supervision in designer Jennifer Lupton’s outsized dollhouse of a chalet? With no money worries, thanks to the stash of gold her buccaneer dad (Hugh Hastings) left her? And her own spotted pony and pet monkey?
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Pippi, whose unique fashion sense has her wearing one striped knee sock, devotes herself to having fun and making stuffy old adults crazy.
She’s the unfettered scamp most kids would love to be, one skip ahead of those pesky parents and teachers who want to tame her. True, Pippi worries a bit about her jolly pirate father, since he got swept overboard during a voyage. And she misses her late mother.
But the musical dwells mostly on the antics she cooks up while delighting her new chums, Annika (Stephanie Kim) and Tommy (Adam Standley). And the horror Pippi provokes in a squeamish schoolteacher (Karen Skrinde), a pair of bumbling cops (Chris Ensweiler and Alyssa Keene) and a bossypants social-welfare worker, Mrs. Prysselius (Laura Kenny), who is determined to haul the whippersnapper off to an orphanage.
Fat chance. Rita Giomi stages with verve Pippi’s exploits, as she leads the coppers on a merry rooftop chase, outsmarts a pair of dense burglars, crashes a tea party and torments Kenny’s wonderfully hateful killjoy into apoplexy.
The scattered songs (accompanied by Jeff Bell on piano) have a savory cabaret flavor (think Kurt Weill Lite), and range from yo-ho-ho hornpipes to sweet lullabies.
And the gags are pitched right to the 5-to-10-year-old crowd — who howled loudest at a recent matinee over some whoopie-cushion bits. (Note: the nearly two-hour show may be a long haul for very young and/or very restless tykes.)
The moral of Pippi’s story seems directed mostly at repressive adults, who bully kids to conform and obey. And one assumes that children won’t take too seriously the show’s rosy view of piracy and rude anarchy.
Pippi may act up, and act out. But she’s a force of nature who doesn’t have a mean bone in her “super-duper” strong little body.
Misha Berson: firstname.lastname@example.org