Nicole Reviews “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane”

I laughed, I cried and was blown away by the creativity and talent that Childsplay was able to showcase in The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.

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We had spent the last two weeks reading the book with my three younger children while my oldest had read it years before.  We had been discussing how they would portray each scene, how many actors there would be and especially how they would portray Edward himself.  We were split half and half on if he would be a real person or a doll with a voice from beyond.

We arrived and spent time enjoying the 360 learning about Hobos, costuming, how the play was written, and other interesting facts that related to the story.   Then saw the craft table with the shadow puppets.  Immediately I said “What does that have to do with the story?”  To which my 8 year old replied “remember the witch and the princess and the warthog story.”  They started to make them just to do something as we had time.  Nobody was super enthusiastic, but hey, we had time.

Then we entered the theater and started to look at the Playbill.   Needless to to say we were surprised to see that there would be only 4 actors and that the scenery was very simple.  The last thing that was said was, “I wonder who will sit in the 5th chair if there are only four actors” as the music started and the actors took the stage.

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From that point forward there were smiles, sad faces, laughs and worried looks all the way up to intermission.  One of the many highlights was how they used the shadow puppets to retell the story that Pelligrina tells Abilene.  All I can say is that it made my kids head straight to the lobby at intermission and begin cutting away.  It made my 11 year old say, “Now I get the story.”  I would have to say that would be true not only for that part of the play, but for the whole story.

Pellegrina and Abilene

When my oldest was 6, we read the book and went to a “book club”.  He was able to tell what happened in the story, but was not able to understand the depth of most parts.  My youngest is now the same age and I think had the same thing fro just reading the book.  But after seeing the emotion in the actors faces and hearing the words brought to life, I venture to say he understands it.

After the intermission the action continues and the intermission did not effect the emotion that you felt as Edward meets up with his beloved Abilene in the doll shop.  First you could hear a woman cry a bit, and as I looked saw many kids and adults with tears in their eyes, then as I looked on stage and Katie McFadden delivered the last line you could see that same emotion in her face.  It is that that makes this whole play one of the best I have seen by Childsplay.  The entire time I felt that the actors were in the moment and so was I.   The set and costumes are simple yet so perfectly done.

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As we discussed all the play and what we liked, I decided that for me, that the way it was done allows us to keep in tact the vivid pictures that Kate DiCamillo created in our minds while reading the book, yet strongly left the emotion of the book imprinted on you in a way will never forget.

Childsplay recommends this for 7 and up.  I would agree for the most part that in order to understand and appreciate all the parts that would be right on.  Having said that, my almost six year old enjoyed it and I fully expect to see him and his two sisters reenacting parts of the play tomorrow in our toy room as they generally do when they have seen a play that they enjoy!

Nicole
Mom Blogger

Lori Reviews “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane”

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Being an avid reader since childhood, I was shocked and ashamed to admit to myself that I had never heard of The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, by Kate DiCamillo. When I agreed to review it for the Mom2Mom blog here at Childsplay, my first thoughts were “Oh, it’s kind of like The Velveteen Rabbit, I guess.”  Aside from the surface fact that the main character is a talking toy rabbit, I couldn’t have been further from the truth!

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Edward Tulane reached me—me, a rational, logical adult!—deeper than nearly any other children’s story ever has.  This magical, simple tale drew me in, causing me to completely suspend disbelief about the inanimate becoming real.  Dwayne Hartford, the playwright, or Childsplay, could have just done the rabbit’s character as a voice-over, but the presence of Kyle Sorrell added so much to the play.  He completely conveyed the idea of Edward’s wanting to move, wanting to be heard, and the frustration from being moved around by others, and having others put words in his mouth.  Kyle’s musical skills were darn impressive as well, and the haunting melodies were a perfect complement to the action.

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Katie McFadzen, Debra Stevens and David Dickinson were the perfect ensemble cast, letting the audience to live many lives during the performance.  The revolving stage and set pieces were sparse enough to allow for our imagination to kick in, much like building castles and forts and space ships with cardboard boxes and being convinced you are in what you built. With subtle yet encompassing backdrops and lighting, the ambiance was ideal to every setting of the play.  You all truly made Edward, the toy, and Edward, the book, come alive.

Pellegrina and Abilene

My 9 year old daughter was amazed by how many rabbits were used in the course of the play…even more so when I showed her how they were made by the 3-D printer on layers and layers of plastic!  Her favorite part was when Edward is first gifted to the little girl in the beginning—I’m sure it reminded her of receiving such an exciting present.  My favorite part (if I have to pick ONE) was the bedtime story worthy of adults, delivered by the girl’s grandmother.  We certainly enjoyed the handout of the shadow puppets, and have had much fun with them since we got home!

Lori
Mom Blogger

Doris’ Review of “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane”

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There’s something beyond exciting to me about going to the theater.   I love all of it; dressing up –just a little bit (or not), gathering my special people, finding our seats, that first moment when we take in the set and stage, the anticipation of a good story well-told.  More than that I feel like a good parent by taking my children to be part of the magic.  Exposing them to the new ideas, great literature and worlds of imagination the theater offers is very satisfying to me as a Mom.  I guess it’s safe to say, the theater is one of my happy places.

Given that starting point, I was more than pleased to have the opportunity to see The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane with my daughter and some good friends this past weekend.   This theater production is beautifully written by Dwayne Hartford and is based on the book of the same name by Kate DiCamillo, an award-winning author of (in my opinion) some truly outstanding contemporary literature for children.

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The story is about a much-loved china rabbit named Edward Tulane who is the proud owner of a trunk full of fancy clothes and a rabbit-sized gold packet watch.  At the start of his journey Edward spends his days being doted on by a loving little girl named Abilene, but being an egotistical little toy he is incapable of thinking beyond his own self-centeredness.    Through a series of events Edward gets lost and the rest of the play tells of his adventures following his separation from Abilene.   From one unlikely place to the next Edward becomes part of the story of everyone he meets, and they in turn become part of his—teaching him a little more about love at every turn.

This production includes a huge assortment of characters all convincingly performed by four über-talented Childsplay performers.  To say I was impressed by how the cast of this play led the audience through Edward’s remarkable journey falls short.   Kyle Sorrell, The Musician, was amazing as the voice of Edward.  His was the task of portraying Edward’s transformation from pompous little twit to “rabbit on the run” whose heart gets “opened wide, and wider still” through the course of his journey.   Katie McFadzen, Debra K. Stevens and David Dickenson performed the roles of The Traveler, The Woman, and The Man, and each portrayed a whole host of different characters in the story.

There is a lot to love about The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.  On stage where things unfold through action and dialogue it’s uncommon to have a hero that can’t move or speak.  The fact that most of this play centers around the interior life of an inanimate china rabbit whose thoughts and feelings are known to the audience and are interpreted by every character he meets is unique and interesting.  There was a guitar, a banjo and a violin, there were harmonicas and shadow puppets; from the bottom of the ocean to high up among the night time stars, there were diverse landscapes and far reaching stories.  Everything was brought to life by the actors who swept the audience along in this amazing tale.  I think this play was made extraordinary by wonderful writing the talent of these four performers.

Bull, Lucy and Malone

At times funny, the story of how Edward learns to love is NOT light-hearted.  It is rich, beautiful, bitter-sweet and sometimes very sad.   There are tough characters and a few decidedly UNHAPPY endings along the way.  The play presents love in all its sweetness, joy, and heartbreak and does not shy away from laying it all out before us—the tragic along with the beautiful.

As much as my daughter and I took away from this play, there’s no doubt it would have been too sad for my younger son who was inconsolable after Charlotte’s Web.  He ended up not able to go with us at the last minute and in retrospect I was glad things worked out the way they did.  That said, I do wholeheartedly recommend this play with the knowledge that it lovely, and (very) sad in parts.  You’ll have to gauge its suitability for your children accordingly.

As always, Childsplay provided an excellent opportunity after the play to connect with the performers and we were given a great set of thought-provoking questions to take with us for the ride home.  Lobby displays had information about hobo life and culture and there were shadow puppet crafts for the kiddos to make during intermission.   We really liked all these “extras” which will serve as the starting point for ongoing discussions, I’m sure.

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To sum up I have to say that we truly enjoyed The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.  The premise that we are all on our own journey through life and each person we love is a brand new opportunity to learn about its meaning—resonates with me.  I was so happy to have shared this treasure with my nine year old daughter, who was riveted the entire time.  This is a girl who has not been without a favorite stuffed animal side-kick every step of the way since she could walk, so she naturally connected to Abilene and Edward in a very real way.  We took it all in, grabbing hands at the sad parts and afterward when I asked what she thought the main message was my daughter answered, “You need to learn how to love and be loved in life or there will be consequences.”   I had to laugh.  That evening she wanted nothing more than to sit down and start reading the book the play was based on rather than play Wii or watch TV… umm—enough said right there??

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On behalf of my daughter and myself, I’d like to thank the wonderful folks at Childsplay for this amazing experience.  We’re sure to think about it for a long time to come.  Following the performance the cast threw this question out to the audience:  “Who teaches you about love?”   I thought that was quite a parting gift.


Doris Waxberg
Mom Blogger