Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
The family-friendly Imagination Stage has kicked off its new season with a musical adaptation of the children's book Bunnicula. With Halloween approaching, the tale of Bunnicula the vampire bunny is quite appropriate. It is also quite amusing for both children and adults.
The book by Deborah and James Howe has been adapted by Jon Klein with music by Chris Jeffries. It tells the story of the strange happenings that occur when the Monroe family adopts a new bunny. He is called Bunnicula because he was found at the movie theater during a showing of Dracula. Bunnicula is not the only pet in the Monroe household. The family already owns a dog named Harold and a cat named Chester. When vegetables start turning white, it is these two who decide to investigate.
As a whole, this show is skillfully produced and is a nice family entertainment. Imagination Stage has advertised the show as being for ages 4 and up. However, some of the language may be a bit too "grown up" for younger audiences. That is not to say there is anything inappropriate in the show but more mature words such as "priority" may be lost on a four-year-old.
Nonetheless, there is a lot of silliness and fun in this show. Chris Jeffries' music is quite lively and it helps to move the plot along. Ilona Kessell's choreography is a perfect match to the bouncy score. Unfortunately, the costumes by Marietta A.F. Greene-Hambrick aren't as effective. The costumes for the Monroe family are quite good, but the costumes for the dog and cat are nothing more than average street clothes. Older audiences may see that a brown pantsuit represents a brown cat, but this representation won't translate to younger audiences. This reviewer saw it first hand in the reaction of a five-year-old companion. Despite the portrayal of the animals' character traits, the kindergartener had no idea that Chester and Harold were a dog and a cat. However, the use of a puppet for Bunnicula was extremely successful.
The cast of this show does a tremendous job. John Slone is a standout as Harold. He has some wonderful moments and delivers a performance that is both funny and endearing. Felicia Curry plays Harold's best friend Chester. She is totally feline in her portrayal. and her vocal performances are some of the strongest in the show. Ben Fainstein (Pete) and Casie Platt (Toby) are appropriately combative in their roles as siblings and Michael Hadary (Mr. Monroe) and Vanessa Vaughn (Mrs. Monroe) are delightfully exaggerated in their roles of the perfect parents. Additionally, Michael Pauli proves to be an apt puppeteer for Bunnicula.
Some may worry that this show is a bit too scary for little ones. There may be a few moments that are cause for concern. Parents should heed the advice of the theater and only bring children who are age four and over. However, in a theater full of children of many ages, this reviewer didn't detect as much as a whimper. Instead, it evoked a lot of laughs and loads of applause. Bunnicula runs through November 7th.
Chester: Felicia Curry