With Shakespeare’s classic comedy Much Ado about Nothing and that most durable of classic musicals The Fantasticks up and running, the Crossroads Repertory Theatre has turned to another classic, Margery Williams Bianco’s story of The Velveteen Rabbit as the Terre Haute company reaches out not just to the most mature audience, but to children as well.
They’re presenting the tale in a new musical adaptation. The adaptation of the story, direction and lyrics are by Saint-Mary-of-the-Woods-College Department of Theatre and Drama Director Sharon Ammen. The music is by the company’s Music Director and pianist John Berst.
The amiable Thiel Munro opens the show with some fancy juggling and further sets the tone with a nicely magical tale from story teller J. O. Callahan called “The Bubble.” Throughout, the story teller was there to guide, tease and occasionally reassure the audience. Amanda Miller was the perky Velveteen Rabbit. Masterful actor Brandon Wentz had the plum role of the wise old Skin Horse. Ariana Cohen, Andrew Todd, Amanda Allen, De’Jon Le’Tray Fisher and Whitney Kos were the snooty other toys.
In this hard working cast they played other roles as well. Cohen was the scary and then scared Crow. Todd was a charmer as the Velveteen Rabbit’s loving boy. Allen was an officious doctor. Fisher had a very funny bit as a crusty old farmer. Kos was the magical key as a sort of fairy god-aunt.
The story flows nicely and the simple staging worked well. John Berst’s songs support the themes with a “March of the Mechanical Toys,” an anthem for “When You’re Real” a “Nana’s Lullaby, ” a “Hippity Hop” dance for the rabbits, of course a few “Tears” from the Fairy and a finale “In Your Dreams.” The show could use a bit more amplification in the New Theatre, It’s not a strong singing cast, but diction was good and the words carried pretty well.
This new adaptation of The Velveteen Rabbit riveted the attention of Sunday’s matinee audience. The story, as it always does for me, worked, and I saw several children who simply stood up for most of the show.
The Velveteen Rabbit has three more performances in the regular Crossroads Repertory Theatre’s season at Indiana State University’s New Theatre on the campus and there are three free touring performances.The story teller, the Velveteen Rabbit, the Skin Horse and all the rest of the cast will be in Fairbanks Park on the 11th, Ryves Hall on the 16th and Deming Park on the 19th for the children of Terre Haute and their families.
Listen to WFIU’s George Walker’s interview with Sharon Ammen