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Mr. Popper's Penguin's
  • Info
  • Performance Description
  • Plot Synopsis
  • Content Advisories
  • Student Matinee Schedule
  • 2018 – 2019 Ticket Prices
  • Curriculum Connections
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Presented by Children’s Theatre Company in association with Kenny Wax Family Entertainment and TC Beech
Based on the novel by Richard and Florence Atwater
Adapted for the stage by Pins and Needles Productions
Music by Luke Bateman
Lyrics by Richy Hughes
Directed by Emma Earle
Designed by Zoe Squire
Puppet Designs by Nick Barnes
Sound by Jason Barnes
Lighting by Ric Mountjoy
For imaginative 3-year-olds and up
Runs approximately one hour, with no intermission

It is hard enough for Mr. Popper, a modest painter, to support himself and his wife, and the unexpected addition of ten penguins makes it even tougher. But then! The imaginative Popper turns his talented penguins into a traveling vaudeville act. They sing! They dance! They become a theatrical sensation and give a must-see penguiny performance! Applause! Applause! This play shows you a wild and witty way to follow your dreams.

Performance Description

Mr. Popper’s Penguins is a musical production performed by a small group of adult actors and puppets. This show was created by Pins & Needles Productions. It is based on the Newbery Honor book by Richard & Florence Atwater.

This production takes place on our UnitedHealth Group stage and seats up to 745 people per performance.

Approximate run time: 1 hour without an intermission.

Run time and other details are subject to change during rehearsal process.

Plot Synopsis
Caution: This is a complete synopsis of the play, so it is full of spoilers.

Polar Explorer, Admiral Drake, begins the show with a radio broadcast from the bottom of the world. We hear about his expedition to the South Pole. Meanwhile, in the small town of Stillwater, Mr. Popper is getting ready to leave for his job as a house painter. On his way, he greets many townspeople. Mr. Popper has an active imagination and while he is working, the color of his paints inspire his daydreams about traveling around the world. He laments that at the end of the day, he is still in Stillwater.

Back at the Popper house, Mr. Popper is reading a book about Arctic adventures. Mr. Popper loves to learn about the arctic through books, movies, and Admiral Drake’s radio broadcast from Antarctica. This evening, Mr. and Mrs Popper are listening to the radio broadcast together when Admiral Drake addresses Mr. Popper directly from the radio. Admiral Drake announces that he has sent Mr. Popper a special surprise.

Just then, the doorbell rings. Inside a package is a real, live penguin. The penguin is clearly nervous and upset about being in a new environment and causes quite a mess by jumping on the couch, knocking over furniture, and eating the pet goldfish. Mr. Popper decides to name him Captain Cook. Mrs. Popper is nervous about having a penguin as a pet but decides it is okay as long as the penguin follows the rules. Captain Cook makes the fridge his bedroom, where it is nice and cold.

The next day, the penguin is still causing quite the commotion and destroying everything in sight. Mr. Popper decides to take Captain Cook out for a stroll around the town. Mr. Popper’s new pet confuses the residents of Stillwater and they mistake him for many different animals. A balloon seller gives the penguin a balloon which causes him to float into the air. Captain Cook upsets a baby when he jumps onto a baby carriage and the police are called. The police officer instructs Mr. Popper to keep his new pet on a leash and get a penguin license. Mr. Popper quickly learns that it is not easy to obtain a penguin license and gives up.

Mr. and Mrs. Popper begin to notice that Captain Cook does not seem happy. He will not eat and has fallen ill due to the warm weather. They try to take him to the vet who explains that penguins just aren’t meant for the climate of Stillwater. The vet encourages them to wrap him in ice packs but fears that the penguin might die. They nurse him back to health as best they can, but write to famous explorers for help. The London Zoo ends up hearing the news of Captain Cook and they send Greta, another penguin suffering from loneliness, to live with the Poppers. Greta does the trick and Captain Cook bounces back in no time.

Winter is setting in and the penguins enjoy the change in climate. The two penguins are too big to both fit in the refrigerator so Mr. Popper decides to open all of the windows to make the entire house cold like the Arctic. Mrs. Popper is not fond of this idea. The Popper’s begin to wonder what Greta and Captain Cook are saying to each other and sing a love song. Before long, the entire house has been transformed into a winter wonderland complete with an ice skating rink.

Greta & Captain Cook are inseparable and before long, Greta lays eggs- eight eggs! They name the newest additions after famous explorers. The baby chicks grow at a tremendous rate and the more they grow, the more they eat! The Poppers begin to suffer the financial strain of providing large amounts of fish every day for them to eat.

Mr. Popper needs to find ways to generate more family income and decides to put the penguins to work in his painting business. The penguins spend more time playing than helping and Mr. Popper has to come up with another plan to keep the penguins busy and increase their income. Mr. Popper schedules them an audition with a theatre producer and the penguins are hired to go out on tour. The penguins walk on a giant ball, lift dumbbells, and perform acrobatics. You truly have never seen a show like Mr. Popper’s Performing Penguins.

Admiral Drake decides to pop by for a visit and has a chance to see the penguins’ performance. At the end of the night, Admiral Drake breaks the news that it is time for the penguins to go back home to their natural habitat. Mr. Popper is sad but understands that this is what is best, so he begins to say a tearful goodbye. Admiral Drake is surprised because he expected Mr. Popper to come with them. Mr. Popper begins to explain that he can’t leave home because of Mrs. Popper, but sees that she is already onboard! They all travel to Antarctica for a fabulous adventure.

Content Advisories (subject to change as the production goes into rehearsal):

Language: 0 out of 5 stars

Themes and Situations: 1 out of 5 stars
Captain Cook feels lonely and becomes sick. They fear he might die. Greta lays eggs.

Violence & Scariness: 0 out of 5 stars

Sensory Advisories: 1 out of 5 stars
Musical numbers can be loud. Snow falls over the audience.

Potentially Anxious Moments: 1 out of 5 stars
Captain Cook feels lonely. Captain Cook eats the pet fish. Mr. and Mrs. Popper feel financially strained.

Mr. Popper's Penguins
Student Matinee Pricing Guide


Trying New Things Collaboration Exploration
Perseverance Friendship Adventure
Family Conservation Daydreaming

Curriculum Connections

Arctic Animals Creative & Critical Thinking Environment
Arctic Climate World Explorers Variety Shows/Vaudeville
Letter Writing Depression Era America Literature & Adaptations
Rhyme & Rhythm Animal Adaptations & Environment Predator & Prey
Maps & Globes Puppets Compare & Contrast
Animal Classification    


Antarctica Arctic Curiosity
Dedication Determination Explorer
Unique Novelty Voyage
Plummet Unfurled Summit
Inhabited Continent Bloomers
Flippers Quaint Promenade
Eccentric Navigation Mayday

Minnesota State Benchmarks




Speaking & Listening





Artistic Foundations
Theatre, Music, & Dance

Benchmark 1, Benchmark 2, Benchmark 3.2

Artistic Process: Create or Make
Theatre, Music, & Dance

Benchmark 1

Artistic Process: Perform or Present
Theatre, Music, & Dance

Benchmark 1

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