I’ve reached a new milestone in my career: attending a play for the express joy that it brings me to watch it with my kid. No better way to launch this new era than with Bluey’s Big Play at the Kennedy Center. I didn’t know I would get verklempt taking her to the Kennedy Center for the first time, but alas, the tears arrived before we even made it to the Eisenhower Theater. (Hey, the Hall of States is pretty cool and she was wowed.)
She abandoned her seat fairly quickly in favor of a lap instead. (The Kennedy Center provides booster seats, but the venue had a hard time keeping up with the demand of this pint-sized crowd.)
The play begins with three Sandpiper puppets at the beach. This helps the audience notice a few things: we will see puppeteers throughout the production, the puppets are highly detailed and expressive, and the fourth wall will be broken. By the time the stars of the show appear, the audience has accepted all of these terms.
Bluey’s Big Play is a brisk 50-minute experience that brings the characters of the Emmy award-winning animated television show Bluey to life on stage through human-sized puppets and stagecraft. In case you are unfamiliar with Bluey, 125 eight-minute episodes are available for your next binge on Disney+. The series is a phenomenon both among the preschool set and, atypically, with their parents. Bluey is funny and heartwarming and actually hints at parents’ lives and values from an adult perspective while also tracking with the hijinks and games of two young children.
Why does Bluey have such a rabid fan base? Families love Bluey’s relatability. I know, people relate to an Australian family of Blue Heeler dogs? The relatability lies in the way the family interacts, the intrusion of technology, and little details like how it can be challenging and busy for a mom who has recently returned to work after staying home with the kids for a few years.
Bluey’s Big Play stars the four members of the Heeler family: Bluey, a six-year-old, her sister Bingo, 4 years old, mom Chilli, and dad Bandit. For much of the play, two puppeteers are required to operate the actions of each puppet as the characters play games, hold cell phones, and hug. The cast of 12 outfitted in green jumpsuits did excellent work bringing the puppets to life and lending even greater emotional connection and warmth to each character.
The plot of Bluey’s Big Play, similar to episodes of the television series, exists within the confines of the Heeler home on a typical Sunday afternoon. After playing games with the kids, Dad Bandit wants to take a breather and read articles on his phone. Meanwhile, the children, wanting Dad to continue playing, steal the phone and hide it. Some life lessons are learned along the way. And a bit of stage magic ensues along with lots of giggles.
For parents, the delight of the show is probably 25% the show itself, and 75% the squeals and expressions coming from the tots on our laps. When I asked my daughter what she liked best about the show, it was the game of “Keepy Uppy” the entire audience got to participate in after the curtain call. As it was not technically a part of the story arc, I was reminded that she has her own tastes and preferences. I respect that.
After its launch in November at Madison Square Garden, the production continues on a 12-month tour of the U.S. Fans of Bluey across the nation will love stepping into Bluey’s world in 3-D and playing games like Keepy Uppy, Copy Cat, and Musical Statues with the Heeler family. The lessons both kids and parents learn will no doubt strike a chord across generations.
Running Time: 50 minutes, with no intermission.
Bluey’s Big Play plays through November 27, 2022, in the Eisenhower Theater at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, 2700 F Street NW, Washington, DC. Tickets ($29–$99) are available at the box office, online, or by calling (202) 467-4600 or (800) 444-1324.
The program for Bluey’s Big Play is online here.
COVID Safety: Masks are optional in all Kennedy Center spaces for visitors and staff. If you prefer to wear a mask, you are welcome to do so. See Kennedy Center’s complete COVID Safety Plan here.
Bluey’s Big Play’s company on tour includes Charles Ball, Rachel Burke, Jess Gollé, Joanna Halliday, Jessa Koncic, Jess Minas, Louisa Reid, Allanah Sarafian, Stephanie Stephens, Aarod Vawser, Kristal Walcott, Chris White.
Bluey’s Big Play is written by Bluey creator Joe Brumm, with new music written by Bluey composer Joff Bush.