The Velveteen Rabbit is a long-beloved children’s book by Margery Williams, first published in 1922. And, though it was published so many years ago, the story still resonates with children (and even adults) today. The story’s staying power and its ability to be both deep and thoughtful, while at the same time, serving as great entertainment for children makes it perfect for a play adaptation and even more perfect for Raleigh Little Theatre, which offers many shows “especially for kids” throughout the year.
James Still’s adaptation veers a little off course from the original story, but most of the changes work well and are necessary for making it more modern and allowing it to work well on stage. The basic story is still the same however; a little boy, Steve (Michael McKenna) bonds with his toy, the Velveteen Rabbit (Neil Bullard). The toy bonds with the boy too, and with careful guidance from an older, wizened toy, the Hobby Horse (Patsy Clarke), the Velveteen Rabbit learns that if he loves enough, he can become “real.” Being real, he’s warned, isn’t an easy process but a worthwhile one, and though he’s mocked by the fancier, newer toys, the Boat (Julia Ryan) and the Train (Gray Gall), he does learn to love and also learns some important lessons along the way. It is an older version of Steve (Brent Wilson) who recounts the story of his experiences with the Velveteen Rabbit as a young boy.
Director Kathleen Rudolph makes great use of the “Older Steve” character. By having him often mirror his younger self’s actions and sometimes react to experiences from his past, she showcases the parallels between adulthood and childhood, as well as the deep but different ways in which children and a few astute adults are capable of interpreting their experiences.
While the direction and the script itself are smart, the play also delivers what young audiences want: color, action, noise, and fun! Thomas Mauney has created a vibrant set that truly does resemble a forest, where some of the action takes place. The set features lots of open space for the characters to move around, often wildly. It also helps that the “toys” are made larger than life. The Boat and Train actually zoom around the stage, much to the delight of young viewers.
As for the acting, Clarke is one of the standouts in the cast. Even in her startling Hobby Horse costume, she evokes the depth and beauty of the author’s original words about what it means to be “real.” Wilson makes for a lovable, believable “Older Steve,” and the younger members of the cast do a great job keeping viewers entertained and delivering their lines with understanding beyond their years.
The Velveteen Rabbit is a wonderful show for children of all ages and even for those who are simply children at heart.
Raleigh Little Theatre presents THE VELVETEEN RABBIT at 7:30 p.m. March 12 and 13, 1 and 5 p.m. March 14 and 15, 7:30 p.m. March 19 and 20, and 1 and 5 p.m. March 21 and 22 in RLT‘s Gaddy-Goodwin Teaching Theatre, 301 Pogue St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27607.
TICKETS: $14 ($10 children age 12 and under).
BOX OFFICE: 919-821-3111 or https://raleighlittletheatre.secure.force.com/.
SHOW: http://raleighlittletheatre.org/shows/14-15/velveteen.html and https://www.facebook.com/events/671856349590087/.
PRESENTER: http://www.raleighlittletheatre.org/, https://www.facebook.com/RaleighLittleTheatre, https://twitter.com/RLT1936, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raleigh_Little_Theatre, and http://www.youtube.com/user/raleighlittletheatre.
2014-15 SEASON: http://raleighlittletheatre.org/shows/14-15/index.html.
NOTE 1: All shows are wheelchair accessible, and assistive-listening devices are available for all shows.
NOTE 2: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the show’s 5 p.m. Sunday, March 15th, performance.
The Velveteen Rabbit (1922 children’s novel): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Velveteen_Rabbit (Wikipedia).
Novel (with original illustrations): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Velveteen_Rabbit (nternet Archive).
Margery Williams (London-born American novelist, 1881-1944): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margery_Williams (Wikipedia).
The Velveteen Rabbit (2009 play): http://www.dramaticpublishing.com/p2626/The-Velveteen-Rabbit-%28Still%29/product_info.html (Dramatic Publishing).
James Still (American playwright): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Still_%28playwright%29 (Wikipedia).
Kathleen Rudolph (director and RLT associate education director): http://raleighlittletheatre.org/learn/youth/faculty.html (RLT bio).
Susie Potter is a Raleigh, NC-based freelance writer and editor. She is a 2009 graduate of Raleigh’s Meredith College, where she majored in English. She holds graduate degrees in teaching and American literature from North Carolina State University in Raleigh. In addition to her work for Triangle Arts and Entertainment, she is an award-winning author of short fiction. Her works have appeared in The Colton Review, Raleigh Quarterly, Broken Plate Magazine, Big Muddy: A Journal of the Mississippi River Valley, the Chaffey Review, and Existere. To read all of Susie Potter’s Triangle Arts and Entertainment articles and reviews, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/susie-q/. To read more of her writings, click http://www.susiepotter.com and http://www.myspace.com/susiepotter.