The Velveteen Rabbit: The Musical

Local Arts Reviews

The Velveteen Rabbit: The Musical

Helm Fine Arts Center, St. Stephen's Episcopal School, through Aug. 21

Running Time: 2 hrs

Love. Some people still believe that it can change the world, and whether you're an optimist or pessimist, you have to admit it's a nice thought. Margery Williams certainly thought so in 1922, when she published the story on which this KidsActing musical is based, a story about a stuffed rabbit that longs to be real, but that can only become so through the love of a boy.

Dede Clark is and always has been the driving force behind KidsActing, the local school for young people interested in the art of the theatre, and she was the driving force behind this original musical, first produced by KidsActing in 1990. It drew a lot of notice then, in large part because of the songs written by such local musicians as Ray Benson, Butch Hancock, Joe Scruggs, Joe Ely, and Marcia Ball. While the songs are still the centerpiece of the show, this revival has more to recommend it than just that.

First and foremost is the musical number "The Things We Do," written by Hancock and Noel Alford, who still serves as the KidsActing musical director. In a room full of oversized, colorful furniture, the toys belonging to the boy, Jeffrey, come to animated life, dancing and singing as they introduce themselves to the new resident of the bedroom, the rabbit of the title. Sometimes in the theatre, performances and design elements join to produce something that's truly magical, and I can say from long experience that you never know when it's coming. It comes right here in this show, in this number, made even more amazing than it might otherwise be because, hey – these are kids doing the acting. Costume designer Theresa May, set designer Gary M. van der Wege, lighting designer Brian Davis, and sound designer Christopher Staefe should be commended for producing something as effective as this is, as should the actors, who include Rachel Nayer as the most charming goldfish in creation, Grace Sarosdy as a strutting skunk, Andrea Cody as a punch-drunk kangaroo, and Caroline Craven, the sweetest little Velveteen Rabbit I'm ever likely to see. Their energy is tremendous, their commitment obvious, and their magic undeniable. Another standout is Richard Woolsey as Homeless Bo, who, with his wailing, rich voice, does utter justice to the finest song in the show, Marcia Ball's "Just a Piece of Trash."

None of which is to say that everything in the production matches the quality of these two numbers, but I'd be surprised if kids of all ages (and some adults as well) don't enjoy the entire show. The audience I sat in certainly did, whooping and hollering at almost every opportunity. They loved it. You might as well.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

The Velveteen Rabbit: The Musical, Marjory Williams, KidsActing, Dede Clark, Ray Benson, Butch Hancock, Joe Scruggs, Joe Ely, Marcia Ball, The Things We Do, Noel Alford Theresa May, Gary M. van der Wege, Brian Davis, Christopher Staefe, Rachel Nayer, Grace Sarosdy, Andrea Cody, Caroline Craven, Richard Woolsey, Just a Piece of Trash

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