Review: Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! (The Musical!) at the Kennedy Center

(Photo credit: The Kennedy Center – Jeremy Daniel)

[Note: This review was written by KFDC contributor Emily Moise, who is helping cover activities geared toward younger children as mine have aged out of them.]

Spoiler alert: the Pigeon may not get to drive the bus, but he does fly to new Kennedy Center-worthy heights. What a treat for Washington, DC, area families and holiday season visitors to experience the world premiere of Mo Willems’ and Mr. Warburton’s Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! (The Musical!), running now through January 5, 2020, at the renowned performing arts center. After that, the Pigeon flies off on tour.

Willems’ simple tale of a tantrum-prone pigeon with a see-it, need-to-have-it affliction is elevated with a thicker plot, toe-tapping musical score, seamlessly choreographed dance and puppetry, and a highly-talented ensemble. Not sure who stole the show more, the personified bus engine getting all the laughs or the surprise tongue-wagging character getting all the wide-eyed stares. And this children’s show is made complete with obligatory, city-themed one-liners for the adults.

If you’re familiar with Willems’ engaging writing style that makes his award-winning books (and readers) come to life, you may be expecting lots of audience interaction. I was anticipating direct solicitation of kids reactions or conversations with the characters — but the Pigeon only veered off-stage once to engage with the audience. Despite this, the one-hour show kept everyone, toddler to adult, captivated. The mostly elementary school-aged audience and their parents were enthralled in the non-stop action, quickly escalating story, and life message-carrying ending.

KFDC Tip: Get some energy out before showtime with a Pigeon-guided, augmented reality tour of The Kennedy Center. You can download the “Tour the Kennedy Center” app on your smartphone, in which you are instructed to scan various kiosks throughout the center. Complete the tour to receive a few cute mementos at the Information Booth. Show memorabilia is also available for purchase in the Family Theater lobby and Gift Shop.

And if your kids are yearning for more, they’ll be happy to learn that Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! (The Musical!) is part of The Kennedy Center’s new Education Artist-in-Residence program, Willems being the very first resident. He has developed a series of multidisciplinary programming that lets kids experience the traditional arts in non-traditional ways. Next up from Willems is “Jazz Doodle Jam!” where kids are actually instructed to doodle during the live jazz concert, the band improvising based on the artwork.

Learn more and find tickets to all of Mo Willems’ upcoming events at the Kennedy Center, including sensory-friendly showings of Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! (The Musical!) here.

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! (The Musical!)
Where: The Kennedy Center | Foggy Bottom, DC
When: Through January 5, 2020
Tickets: $20


Filed under 2019, All ages, DC, Fall, Live Entertainment, Theatre, Weekdays, Weekend, Winter

3 Responses to Review: Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! (The Musical!) at the Kennedy Center

  1. Charlene

    Love this. Is there a suggested age range or a running time for the show? I have a 2.5 year old. She loves his books, but it’s hard to tell whether she’ll have the attention span for “the theater” 🙂

  2. Emily

    As far as I can tell, this show is almost completely sold out (with single seats available for only a few shows).

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