Bunnicula at Seattle Children's Theatre
Also see David's review of Anna in the Tropics
The third time around for Bunnicula, premiered at Seattle Children's Theatre in 1996, is a charm, thanks to expert direction by David Bennett and a cast as charming as they are energetic. Adapted by playwright Jon Klein from a popular children's book by Deborah and James Howe, this semi-musical (lyrics by Klein, music by Chris Jeffries) is a fanciful, non-scary Halloween treat for the kid inside all of us.
Told in flashback by Harold, faithful dog to the '60s sitcom-cuddly Monroe family, Bunnicula relates the strange occurrences that befell the Monroe house after they adopted a seemingly harmless rabbit, which they named Bunnicula. Harold's best buddy, Chester the cat, thinks something is up from the get go. How does a rabbit disappear from its cage and then return without being noticed? Why are all the vegetables in the Monroe fridge turning white? In the course of answering these questions, Harold and Chester's friendship is sorely put to the test, but in the end all three pets are (relatively) chummy and resume their normal lives of avoiding baths and steering clear of evil vacuum cleaners.
Bennett directs the show with a light and breezy touch, and has cast the central role of Harold to perfection with actor Anthony Curry, a gifted comic with a vaudevillian strut who has languished in roles too small for his talent in recent Seattle theatre seasons. Sarah Harlett's nervous feline Chester is also a deft comic turn, and she and Curry pair up well, as a sort of animal version of Abbott and Costello Meet Dracula. Douglas N. Paasch designed the Bunnicula puppet, and a puppeteer manipulates its fangs and glowing red eyes, which seemed to amuse and delight even the youngest audience members. The Monroe family definitely plays second fiddle to the animal characters, but Demene E. Hall and David Drummond are charming as the parents, while Ian Fraser and MJ Sieber handle the difficult task of adult actors playing children quite adroitly.
The songs, while not narrative-movers, add some zip and pizazz to the proceedings, with Chris Jeffries' catchy melodies standing way above Klein's pedestrian and predictable lyrics. Kathryn Van Meter's choreography is jaunty and credit the actors dealing so well with the canned musical accompaniment (Please SCT - don't have canned music when you stage the Seattle premiere of A Year with Frog and Toad, I implore you!)
A special star of the show is scenic designer Jennifer Lupton's attractive suburbia house interior, designed larger than life to make - along with costumer Bradley Reed's platform shoes for the humans - the animals look smaller.
Bunnicula is a well-timed fall offering, ideally suited to SCT's cozy Eve Alford second stage, at 201 Thomas Street in Seattle center. It runs through December 19, 2004, resuming after Christmas from January 7-16, 2005. For further information visit SCT online at www.sct.org.