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Before the production of The Velveteen Rabbit even began on Saturday Dec. 1 at the Pridemore Playhouse, audience members were already laughing heartily as three of the human characters of the show presented the rules of the theatre such as not taking photos and turning off cellphones.
“Not just on vibrate,” scolded Kenzie Vanderwerker, after pointing to a mother in the audience fiddling with her phone. Laughter ensued.
The Velveteen Rabbit, a story by Margery Williams and adapted for the stage by James Still, is a tale about a stuffed rabbit who learns he can become real if his owner, a young boy named Steve, truly loves him. The touching story is not just for children. It is a grippingly tragic love story for everyone, and it also happens to have life-size toys and fun scenes for the kids.
The audience got to see the imagination of the two brothers, played by Justin D. Kline and Chris Creane, as they jumped on a bed and pretended to be on a ship in the middle of a storm. The action came to life in blue ripples entwining on the scrim in a thrilling light display designed by W. David Wheeler and Erin Bradley with thundering sound by Daryl Pauley.
Carl H. Lefko was the mastermind behind the stage design. Giant tinker toys, which brought smiles to the parents’ faces, framed little Steven’s room, and was simple enough to keep focus on the elaborate bunny, rocking horse, boat, and train costumes designed by Dominique Bannarn.
Grace Ellinghaus played the title role with charming candor and her mentor, the rocking horse, was portrayed by the very poised and elegant Chandish Nester. Kline was a brilliant choice for the four-year-old Steven. Not only does he have a sweet, child-like grin, but his performance was very genuine and believable.
“It was so cute!” Girls kept crying out as they walked out of the theatre. Nearby, there was a mother who wiped tears from her cheek.
The spectacle and sentimentality of the show packed into just over an hour of time, but the tragic love story is timeless.
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