- Musical Adaptation by Chad Henry
- Based on the book by Margaret Wise Brown
- Directed by Mary Hall Surface
- Music Direction by Jay Crowder
- Co-produced by Adventure Theatre and Tribute Productions
- Reviewed by Gary McMillan
I thought I was wandering into a theatre to find a general admission seat for an evening performance, only to find that I had actually crossed a threshold into a Great Green Room. Oh, my! For a peek at the set alone, put your money on the bunny.
The musical Goodnight Moon, now playing at Atlas Performing Arts Center after a few weeks run at Glen Echo Park, lovingly builds on this iconic children’s book with charm, wit, and heart. Director Mary Hall Surface’s love for the book shines through in every aspect. The set design and lighting, by Tony Cisek and Dan Covey, respectively, cradle the show and perfectly set the mood of the varied scenes from homey to whimsy to wonder. Chad Henry’s embellishments that translate the simple story into a full-length play add a delightful magical realism to an already fanciful tale. Henry’s songs range from sweet to sassy; while they are simple enough to appeal to young children, they are by no means juvenile. Surface also has another wild card up her sleeve: choreographer Michael J. Bobbitt (also Artistic Director at Adventure Theatre) may not pull a rabbit out of a hat, but there’s not much else he wouldn’t pull to put a smile on your face.
For the uninitiated, Goodnight Moon was a bit of a sleeper when first published in 1947. The story chronicles the bedtime of Bunny going through the nightly ritual of saying goodnight to all that’s familiar in its little world. For decades now it’s been one of the leading gift books presented by family and friends to new parents – running neck and neck with Pat the Bunny – and outpacing The Tale of Peter Rabbit (who is given an amusing mention in Henry’s script). By 1990, Goodnight Moon had sold more than 4 million copies.
Here Bunny (Kurt Boehm) is a restless, rambunctious little boy bunny whose goodnight ritual is an opportunity for countless distractions. Boehm has an impressive acting range both light (Thoroughly Modern Millie and Footloose at Toby’s) and dark (Kiss of the Spider Woman and One Red Flower at Signature). He is a joy to watch as he bounds around the room or stares with awe at the moon and stars spinning around his room. His physical immersion in the role is amazingly skillful. Observe the children in the audience and you immediately realize how on target Boehm’s performance is. He’s a wonder in tap shoes and floppy rabbit ears.
If you are familiar with local treasure Judy Simmons from a bevy of show stopping performances in a variety of urban, sophisticated roles (e.g., Follies, A New Brain, or Company), be prepared to enjoy another side of her talent. She’s a kind, nurturing presence throughout the show as Old Lady and shares two great back-to-back songs with Bunny. First is “Mr. Nobody,” where Bunny sheds blame surer than Teflon. Next they take a wild romp through “You’ll Never Get Away,” an homage to the earlier Wise book, The Runaway Bunny.. She’s also a can-do Cow (I think I can; I think I can) as she sizes up a leap for the moon. I’ll resist the obvious puns. Bless her for having an outrageous sense of humor.
Other cast members do triple duty in roles as well as tackling puppeteer responsibilities (created by The Puppet Company). When not animating two fur-ball kittens and a wise-cracking mouse, Cyana Cook, Danny Pushkin, and Jennifer Timberlake have a field day on a nursery rhyme field trip. Three bears were never so hep — clad in brown corduroy zoot suit tails and top hats with ears – they challenge Bunny to a musical chairs romp. Pushkin makes for a delightfully neurotic Tooth Fairy in dental white with wings and a sequined head mirror band. Cook is a real dish. No, I mean a “real dish” as in domestic partnering with a spoon. She ezz zo very very French, complete with a couture cocktail dress of rainbow pleats and a broad-brimmed cantilevered hat no doubt engineered by Frank Lloyd Wright. Timberlake adds pluck in a recurring role as the Cat with the Fiddle. I’d swear that Bobbitt snuck in a tribute to Fosse’s “Steam Heat” in one of the ensemble numbers.
Surface also has some additional surprises in store as set pieces come alive in a whacked out way not unlike Beauty and the Beast.
Goodnight Moon will enthrall preschoolers on up Adults are sure to enjoy the kids’ reactions while enjoying the show on their own level as well. Friday evening performances are Pajama Party nights with post show milk and cookies. If they’d add a college night and/or a singles night, the show could run for years.
- Run time: 1 hour, no intermission
- When: Thru June 22. (some performances are Sold Out). Wed, 11 am, 1:30 pm, Thurs, 11 am, Fri, 7 pm, Sat, 11 am and 4:30 pm, Sun, 1 pm and 4:30 pm
- Where: Sprenger Theatre of the Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H Street, Washington, DC
- Tickets: $12 for children, $15 for adults
- Info: Adventure Theatre website.