We all want to feel loved, right? And there are times we feel forgotten. Unseen. Disposable. The classic children’s story The Velveteen Rabbit is a sentimental reminder that a child’s love can turn even the most overlooked among us into something deserving of love and unwavering faith.
Margery William’s classic 1922 tale about a toy rabbit brought to life through the love of a child gets a fresh look in Adventure Theatre’s holiday offering: The Velveteen Rabbit. Playwright Patrick Flynn’s entertaining new script retains the early 20th-century charm – and nearly all the plot – of the original story. A team of skilled designers, led by director Jenna Duncan, creates a uniformly lovely show that wraps up into a pretty holiday package.
The story opens on a lovely Edwardian looking home. A young girl interacts with various toys and soon settles on a stuffed toy rabbit as a playmate. As the story develops, Alex De Bard as the Rabbit and Eirin Stevenson as the Child give strong performances that are brightly geared toward the show’s young audience.
The cast is rounded out by an ensemble of two: Alex Reeves and Mary Myers are a continual presence on the stage, smoothly morphing from character to character and giving voice to the various toys in the nursery, including the wise Skin Horse (voiced by Myers) who teaches the Rabbit what it means to be real.
As Child and Rabbit bond and play, we are privy to the inner workings of their imagination through some of the most enchanting projection design I have ever seen. (Projection design by Kelly Colburn.) The high seas of Peter Pan, the rolling hills of Sherlock Holmes, and Robin Hood’s Sherwood Forest all spin past. In addition, one major character is played nearly entirely by a projection: The child’s nanny, who has the pesky habit of reminding her to study and sleep, is portrayed as a giant-sized shadow. After all, aren’t we grown-ups merely shadows in a child’s imagination?
Clever set design by Matthew Buttrey lets us follow Child and Rabbit from the exterior of the house to the nursery, to the library, with ease. Each location resonates with holiday charm. The nursery, with its woodland wallpaper, plush velvet bedding, and paned-glass windows, is a cozy spot for Child and Rabbit to play. The stately library contains a few unexpected surprises, and children will appreciate the clever double-use of removable set-pieces as creatures-of-the-imagination that come alive as the Child and Rabbit plays pretend.
The costumes (Kenann Modjeska Quander) contribute equally to the production’s charm. As the Rabbit laments that her coat is falling apart with age, we see the clever costume fray. The Rabbit costume is equally resourceful in allowing the actor to seem both a stuffed toy, bound by the strictures of gravity and a creature who can run and frolic with the child when imagination takes over.
Choreographer Tony Thomas (a Helen Hayes-winning choreographer whose skills are underutilized in this production) gets his moment to shine during a brief dance scene.
The children in the audience would likely appreciate more “wow appeal” in the moment when the Rabbit finally becomes real and a few scenes might resonate more deeply with the adults in the room than the children (Shakespeare and Mozart inhabit the library), but parents and children in search of a holiday outing will do well with The Velveteen Rabbit.
Running Time: 55 minutes with no intermission.
Assistant Director: Cynthia Dorcey
Sound Designer: Matthew Nielson
Lighting Design: Sarah Tundermann
Puppets Design: Kylie Clark
Properties Design: Pauline Lamb
Dialect Coach: Lisa Nathans
Production Stage Manager: Kirsten E. Parker
Assistant Stage Manager: Evangeline Hakes
Master Electrician: Katherine Darnell
Scenic Change: Amy Kellett