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Reviews for The Velveteen Rabbit

New York Times - March 2002

by Laurel Graeber

Hide of Cloth, Heart of Gold

No theme seems to recur more often in children's books and entertainment than that of a toy coming to life. From Pinocchio to the Nutcracker to Buzz Lightyear and Woody, a cherished plaything not only captures a human heart but harbors one as well.

One of the most tender belongs to the Velveteen Rabbit, the title character of Margery Williams's 1922 children's classic. In this poignant tale, a stuffed animal, scorned by fancy mechanical toys, becomes a boy's favorite. But after the child develops scarlet fever, the doctor, fearful of contagion, orders the rabbit burned. The toy, already real in the boy's eyes, is turned into a living rabbit by a sympathetic fairy. He gains life and freedom but can observe the beloved child only from afar.

Victory Theatrical, whose Literally Alive series dramatizes children's literature, has managed no easy feat: a musical "Velveteen Rabbit" that is both upbeat and faithful to the text. Brenda Bell, who wrote the book and lyrics, has closely adhered to the story, except for making the child a girl (9-year-old Rachael Plutzik).

Mark McGee's score ranges from sweetly melodic to jazzy; "You Were Made for Love," sung by the fairy (Kerry Ann Lambert) to Pete, the rabbit (Bronwen Rae), is a zestful anthem that would be as much at home in a smoky cabaret as in a children's musical. Emphasizing joy, it minimizes the scene's potentially maudlin elements.

Directed by Ian Thomas, with Holli Banks as Nana and Todd Eric Hawkins as the Skin Horse, "The Velveteen Rabbit" also offers a preshow workshop in which children can make rabbit ears for themselves and decorations for the stage. My own 7- year-old headed home with more than his artwork; to my surprise, he was humming one of the tunes.

Big Apple Parent - April 2002

by Judy Antell

Another Kids' Show is Hare

Literally Alive's mission is to bring children's literature to life. My 4-year-old, who saw the latest production, "The Velveteen Rabbit", took this to heart. Upon arriving home after seeing the play, she pulled her copy of "The Velveteen Rabbit" off the shelf. "Look," she said. "In the original story, a boy had a velveteen rabbit, not a girl."

She wasn't complaining, she was returning to the text; which is what Brenda Bell, the artistic director and writer of this adaptation, had in mind. The show opens with the toys in the nursery coming to life; while this happens in the book, many young children will also connect this to the movie "Toy Story", about the lives of the toys in a boy's room.

In both the book, by Margery Williams, and this adaptation, the velveteen rabbit is a Christmas present, but the bunnies on stage are perfectly timed for Easter, too. The rabbit is eager to be real, like the Skin Horse; he becomes the girl's favorite toy, but must be disposed of when she has scarlet fever. A nursery fairy turns him into a real bunny, and he makes friends with wild rabbits; he and the girl also met the following year.

For children whose attention span is longer than an hour (the length of the show), there is a pre-performance workshop, where the actor playing the Skin Horse reads some of "The Velveteen Rabbit", and sings part of his song, "What is Real?" Kids also get to make colorful bunnies and tape them to the stage, and make bunny ears and bow ties, which they can wear during the show.

After the show, the actors greet audience members and happily autograph programs.

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