USA TODAY US Edition
Peppa Pig is prepared to make a ‘Big Splash’
Live show kicks off tour in November
Not since Ian Falconer’s Olivia leaped off the page and onto TV screens has a porcine heroine inspired as much affection as preschool sensation Peppa Pig.
The star of her own self-titled, U.K.-based animated series — shown on Nick Jr. in the USA and available to international viewers in 180 territories — Peppa is set launch her first tour in our country, Peppa Pig’s Big
Splash, on Nov. 19. Co-producer Jonathan Shank says many shows sold out shortly after they were announced in May: “We were inundated with requests” by fans, a good number of them parents, on the official Facebook site, which has more than 2.5 million followers.
Relax, mummies and daddies — or as Daddy Pig might suggest, take a deep snort. Big Splash is now adding 65 cities and 100 performances to its itinerary, available at peppapigliveus.com. The second leg, launching Jan. 16 in Melbourne, Fla., will wrap at New York’s Beacon Theatre April 9-10.
Four-yearold Peppa and her family and friends, who arrive on our shores after successful stage productions in the U.K. and Australia, are represented by puppets, maneuvered by the same actors who give voice to the characters.
Original songs, as well as tunes featured on the TV series, are woven into the story, in which Peppa and her pals set up a fair to raise money to repair a leaky roof.
“It was a multi-layered audition,” Shank says. “We had more than 2,000 people apply” for what turned out to be six spots, with two of the performers juggling roles. “Many said they were familiar with Peppa through their nieces or nephews.”
Lib Campbell, 29, who’s cast as Peppa, says, “I hadn’t seen the show before my audition, but after binge-watching so many episodes I am now an unabashed
Peppa fan.” It was important to director Richard Lewis that the live show reflect the gentle wit of the series, in which jumping around in muddy puddles and Daddy Pig ’s loud snorting are the most outra- geous features.
“We did not want to have costume characters, because we didn’t think that would properly reflect the innocence and cuteness of the enterprise,” Lewis says. “The reason Peppa captures audiences all over the world is that it appeals to that part of childhood that’s about gentleness and safety; we didn’t want to betray that.”
Preschoolers can expect the same comforting pastel colors they see in the series, and “no car crashes or action sequences,” Lewis says. “An action sequence for us is a dinosaur in a tree.”
That’s not to say Big Splash will be a staid endeavor. “The show is designed around interactivity,” Lewis says. “There are scenes that can’t be completed without the involvement of the kids. They need to be engaged, to burn off energy.”
A new character, Daisy, has been introduced as “a live facilitator to help with the interactivity.” For parents, Lewis hopes, the show will provide “a communal experience. To have them engage with the children is what you want — you don’t want them to be babysitters.”
Harley Bird, 14, who introduced Peppa’s bubbly soprano in the series eight years ago and is still voicing her, hopes to travel to the USA to check out her character’s stage incarnation.
“I think people will get to see Peppa in more of a real way” in
Big Splash, Bird says. “And they’ll get to jump in muddy puddles.”