Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! (The Musical!)
The Kennedy Center Theater for Young Audiences
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's reviews of Come from Away and Peter Pan and Wendy

During the year-end holiday season, the Kennedy Center Theater for Young Audiences in Washington is presenting a shiny musical entertainment that is fun for children age 5 and up, clever enough that adults will enjoy it too, and only an hour long.

Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! (The Musical!), in this Kennedy Center-commissioned world premiere production, was adapted by award-winning children's author and illustrator Mo Willems (also the center's first-ever Education Artist-in-Residence) from elements of several of his books. All six of the versatile cast members have either been nominated for or received the Helen Hayes Award and the director, Jerry Whiddon, has worked extensively in the area for decades.

The plot is simple enough. The Pigeon (a puppet operated by Christopher Michael Richardson) is frustrated at not being able to do anything he wants, to the point where he asks, "Can birds have an existential crisis?" Then the Bus Driver (Felicia Curry) appears through the window of her two-dimensional bus, in a pristine white uniform and "officially official" cap, ecstatic about her perfect on-time record. Her passengers (Evan Casey, Tracy Lynn Olivera, Hasani Allen) are determined that she get them to their destinations in a prompt manner. But there's a problem with the bus—can the Pigeon help? And don't forget Erika Rose, who plays several roles, including providing the sound of the bus engine.

If that description makes the show sound silly and preachy, it is neither. Willems created the book and lyrics with writing partner Mr. Warburton, while Deborah Wicks La Puma's score incorporates a surprising range of musical influences. The actors remain visible while manipulating the puppets directed by Scottie Rowell, so part of the fun is seeing how they channel their facial expressions and emotions into their characters.

Apart from this production, Willems has worked with app developer Zappar to create an interactive "Tour the Kennedy Center" app. The Pigeon acts as a personal tour guide as visitors explore the grounds, scan codes placed on signs at nine points of interest in the 17–acre indoor-outdoor campus, and access interactive trivia. (Warning: don't let him get away with making up facts!)

Kennedy Center Family Theater
Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! (The Musical!)
November 23rd, 2019 - January 5th, 2020
Based on the book by Mo Willems
Written by Mo Willems and Mr. Warburton
Music by Deborah Wicks La Puma
The Pigeon: Christopher Michael Richardson
The Bus Driver: Felicia Curry
Hot Dog Vendor/Business Man/Ensemble: Evan Casey
Little Old Lady/Ensemble: Tracy Lynn Olivera
Teenager/Ensemble: Hasani Allen
Duckling/Bus Engine/Ensemble: Erika Rose
Directed by Jerry Whiddon
Choreographed by Jessica Hartman
Music director: William Yanesh
Family Theater, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
2700 F St. NW, Washington, DC
Ticket Information: (800) 444-1324 or (202) 467-4600 or