Review by Mary Kathryn Groh of “The Velveteen Rabbit”: Cincinnati Children’s Theatre
The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati opens its stage for patrons to see the classic story of “The Velveteen Rabbit”. With the COVID-19 pandemic putting theatre performances on hold, it was wonderful to step back into the theater as a patron even with careful safety precautions. Written by Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit is the story of a stuffed rabbit’s desire to become real through the love of his sweet owner. This modernized version of the story was adapted by William S. Kilborne, Jr. and Albert T. Viola, and it really appealed to the younger patrons with all of the exciting flashing and colorful lights. Director Roderick Justice does a fantastic job keeping the young patrons on the edge of their seats as they watch the story of “The Velveteen Rabbit” unfold.
The show opens on Christmas Eve with the Boy (Kavan Vadivelu) eagerly opening his Christmas presents. He does so with much gratitude, showing love and appreciation for all of his new toys, but more so with the stuffed velveteen rabbit. He absolutely adores his stuffed rabbit, so much so that the rabbit begins to get worn and tattered. However, the Boy still loves the rabbit, and The Velveteen Rabbit (A. James Jones) longs to become real and to be able to hop on his hind legs like the other real rabbits. The Boy suddenly comes down with a case of pneumonia and is reluctantly forced to throw out his favorite toy. After being tossed out, a Fairy (Brandi Langford-Sherrill) uses her magic to turn The Velveteen Rabbit into a real rabbit.
I loved how this classic story had a modern twist added to it with the high-tech robot character and the cool lighting and sound effects. Scenic Designer Jennifer Rhodus did a remarkable job creating fast set changes that accommodated the “modern” and technological aesthetic of the production. I was most impressed with the COVID-19 friendly costumes that made face masks part of the costume. Costume Designer Jeff Shearer had everyone on stage in masks but made sure that the mask wasn’t distracting or completely obvious to patrons. The masks did not take away from the production at all, in fact, I think that it added to it. At first, I was hesitant about the idea of the actors wearing masks, but once I saw them all together in their costumes and masks, it brought the whole show together.
After the year we have had, it was nice to spend an evening watching a heartwarming show about love and friendship. More information on The Velveteen Rabbit can be found at https://thechildrenstheatre.com/shows/the-velveteen-rabbit/ . This modern retelling story of The Velveteen Rabbit is running at the Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati on Red Bank Road from Thursday, November 12 to Sunday, December 13. Tickets start at $25 and can be purchased online.
Streaming this production on Broadway On-Demand begins on November 19 and can be preordered here.