Marissa reviews “The Velveteen Rabbit”

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First of all, I love Childsplay. Yes they gave me free tickets, but before child number 2 was old enough to need activities we were season pass holders. So this love comes from long before I got tickets to see a play. In fact, it stretches back to my childhood. I loved them even then.

This weekend we were fortunate to see the production of The Velveteen Rabbit. It was a trial play for the littlest in our family. At 2 3/4 she is not very good at sitting for long periods of time and is a bit antsy since we are still potty training. It was also a reliving of history for me as this was the first play we took my eight year old to way back when she was 3 1/2.

I must say that I was impressed. For a good forty-five minutes my youngest child was entranced, not sitting still, but entranced. She bounced from my lap to her dad and sister’s laps, but she paid attention. She exclaimed and shouted, “There’s a butterfly daddy”. For the most part she made it through that play and thought it was a pretty cool experience. She was gone for the last fifteen minutes because she couldn’t calm down again after using the restroom, but still, for her age they were able to hold her attention marvelously.

This is an excellent first play for a child. Every child imagines that their animals are “real” and that they are responsible for their care and fun. Having that reinforced by a great story is an awesome way to confirm their standing in the world. To tell them, without telling them, that what they do and experience is the same as what other children do and experience. The Velveteen Rabbit has a happy and magical ending, that children hope and wish could be true. Childsplay is even keeping the magic alive by enabling the children to get a letter from the nursery fairy. Such thought and care for children and their theatre experiences is essential to creating a true love of the art and Childsplay are, in my opinion, the masters of this experience.

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I for one, love the magic of the theatre. From the oversized set pieces used to make the boy seem small and the platform shoes that make Nana seem large; to the fact that the boy was played by a female actress and Nana by a male actor. I love that in this world of imagination children can see that there truly are no gender boundaries, really no boundaries at all. They can pretend to be whatever and whomever they want to be. Their bed can be a pirate ship, a wild jungle and an airplane. How many toys let children play in this manner anymore? Aside from a few children’s shows, how many acknowledge and celebrate the imagination?

The touching moment of the evening was when my oldest and I both teared up when the Velveteen Rabbit was put in the refuse pile. I reached over and grabbed her hand, knowing that she wouldn’t want me to acknowledge how sad she was and that it showed on her face, but also knowing that having me there would make it a little better.

That to me is what live performances are about. That shared emotion with those you are with and strangers who are experiencing the same roller coaster with you. You don’t always get that with movies and television as they are so pervasive that I find it rare that people actually focus on the movie or show. Instead they are checking their phones or facebook and twitter. A live performance if you let it can draw you in and hold you in a way that recorded versions can’t.  You never know what will happen in a live show and no performance is ever exactly the same. There is something magical about that fact.

This is why I love Childsplay, and why I am so grateful for the programs they take to schools. Every child should be able to experience a professional theatre experience in their young life, even if they can’t afford it or their parents don’t want to go. Every child should see the magic of the theatre and learn that while during the show it seemed real, there are always tricks going on backstage to make it feel that way. Every parent should experience this with their child if possible, for there is nothing like becoming a kid again by watching and experiencing something new with your own children.

May you never lose the magic, awe and wonder of childhood.

Marissa
Mom Blogger

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Jennifer Reviews “The Velveteen Rabbit”

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I have always loved the story of The Velveteen Rabbit, so I was very excited to take my 5-year-old daughter to see it.  The set looked simple, a nursery scene with a big bed, a window, and oversized toys on the shelves.  The cast was small, but it should be, as the book is really about only a boy and his toy.  Both the set and the cast turned out to be wonderful.  The nursery scene came alive, literally, and I fell in love with Nana and her love for The Boy.  To be honest, Nana was my favorite character.  The rabbit was awesome, and the puppeteer did a fantastic job bringing it to life.

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I had wondered how it would work, with an inanimate toy for the title character, but it was perfect.  The cast came out after the show to answer questions from the children in the audience about how things in the play worked, which was interesting.  I was very moved by the retelling of this child’s love story… when the rabbit became worn and shabby from loving, I saw in my mind my daughter’s beloved giraffe, who looks more like a horse by now and is part of our family.  The best part of the show, though, was watching my daughter’s face as she got wrapped up in the imagination of The Boy and the magic of the Nursery Fairy (My daughter’s favorite character).  I was sad for the play to end, and am so excited for the next opportunity to see a Childsplay production.

Jennifer
Mom Blogger

A Delightful Family Day with Childsplay and The Velveteen Rabbit

When you were a child, which of your stuffed animals was “real”?

I remember my special relationship with “Dancing Bunny,” who was named that because it was printed across his chest until it was loved off. He started out with erect ears, and was rather stout, even though he was a professional dancer. He had open fluff surgery–twice–and was squished into a suitcase for all family adventures. He is now protected in a box in the garage, his sticker eyes halfway peeled off, much thinner, and more grayish and flat-coated than fluffy white. My best childhood companions were animals, and he was just as real to me as any of them.

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This memory came to the surface when my family attended a spectacular Childsplay production of “The Velveteen Rabbit” this past weekend. Our family had heard that Childsplay productions were fabulous, but we’d never been, partially due to the fact that my kids went berserk during the last live production we tried to attend, and we had to leave during intermission.

“The Velveteen Rabbit” is a sweet holiday tale based on Margery Williams’ classic children’s book. It is perfect for the holidays because it is all about love and the magic of imagination–the possibility of the impossible. Childsplay is celebrating it’s 25th anniversary of the production that has become a holiday tradition for so many and will, now, for us.

I loved it, as did my husband (shhh, don’t tell), but, more importantly, it captivated my kids, Porter (6) and Campbell (4) as they sat riveted in their theater-provided booster seats. I truly couldn’t believe that they stayed still and engaged throughout the entire performance. There were no ill-timed trips to the restroom or begging for snacks. They simply loved it. I loved watching their smiles just as much as I enjoyed watching the play!
The actors were fabulous. I anticipated that they might be sub-par, seeing as this was a theater company geared toward kids, but they were as professional as I’ve ever seen. Kaleena Newman as the boy and Eric Boudreau as Nana carried the “human” aspect of the show and captivated the audience, young and old alike. Despite playing roles as the opposite genders, they were completely believable–what talents!

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The puppeteers and set interacted in a way that made the magic of the story come to life. Our favorite part–SPOILER ALERT–was when the boy and the Velveteen Rabbit were pretending to be pilots. The nursery bed sprouted a propeller, emitted smoke, and even lifted right up off the stage! “Whoa!” said Porter, amazed. Who knew such a quiet, sweet story could be so exciting?

After the actors took their final bows, they talked to the audience about the production and gave the children a chance to answer questions about what they like to pretend to be when they are playing. Porter said “a superhero!” They gave the children the opportunity to ask any question they wanted about the production. Some asked about how the toys moved, and some asked about the story. What a great chance for these new theater-goers to connect with the actors and better understand all that goes into a professional live production. The actors even invited the children to come up to the stage and meet them!

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The fun spilled out into the lobby and beyond, and the Tempe Center for the Arts was the perfect venue. The kids had a chance to write to the Nursery Fairy about which toy they would love to have come alive. There was a small gift-shop at which you could purchase books and other Velveteen Rabbit souvenirs. There is an outdoor area overlooking Tempe beach, so the kids could run around and get their wiggles out before and after the show. There is an art gallery to explore, and an outdoor sculpture garden to round out the experience.

If you are looking for a unique holiday event for the whole family, I would highly recommend Childsplay’s production of “The Velveteen Rabbit,” which runs on weekends through December 22nd.

Kristen
Mom Blogger