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BWW Review: THE VELVETEEN RABBIT at Des Moines Playhouse: An Imaginative Journey That Will Feel Real For All Ages

An imaginative journey for all ages

BWW Review: THE VELVETEEN RABBIT at Des Moines Playhouse: An Imaginative Journey That Will Feel Real For All Ages
Corley Blackford as The Rabbit
Finley Snavely as Child
Photo by Brent Isenberger.

Children can tell some of the most creative stories. They aren't afraid to let whatever is in their imagination come to life. As we get older, we tend to let go of the imaginative stories we tell and focus more on the reality of what is currently going on in our lives. Des Moines playhouse opened their production of "The Velveteen Rabbit, by Patrick Flynn, based on the book by Margery Williams, on April 16. Their imaginative telling taps into the power of a child's imagination and leaves audiences with a story that is both timely and heartwarming.

With a runtime of 45 minutes, "The Velveteen Rabbit" tells the story of a child who allows her imagination to run wild and imagine her toys are alive and part of her favorite stories. Her only issue is one of her toys doesn't have legs, so it can't do anything. This toy is a rabbit made of velveteen and stuffed with sawdust. After she begrudgingly takes the rabbit to bed one night, she starts to imagine that the rabbit has legs. Whenever the rabbit is with the child, it can move around freely, but the rabbit is forced to stay in one spot when the child is gone. When the child gets very sick with a disease and starts running a fever, the rabbit is forced to try and find a way to attract attention to get help for the child. Will she be able to get that help? If she does get help, what will happen to the rabbit? To find out, you will have to see the play.

The audience can see the imagination in this show through multiple design elements. The first is through Jay Jagrim's set design. If you attended "Some Enchanted Evening," you will see the same stationery set unit, but the similarities stop there. Multiple pieces were added to the set that allowed the children in attendance to imagine what each scene looks like. These pieces featured were a bed that could be pushed into the set and a fireplace that can double for the nursery and library in the show. The imagination doesn't stop there. It continues with director Charissa Hamel's creative staging, which constantly had the cast moving around the set as though it was a child's playground, which made for a fun evening. All of this is tied together with fun costumes from Angela Lampe that the actors could change at a moment's notice and colorful lighting by Virgil Kleinhesselink.

To bring all the fantastic technical elements together, you need an incredibly talented and playful cast. Finlay Snavely leads the cast as the child and Corley Blackford as Velveteen Rabbit. Snavely grabs the audience's attention from the top of the show as her character imaginatively brings the story of Peter Pan to life on stage with her toys and continues through the show as she tells other stories. Blackford does a great job of bringing the inquisitiveness of the Velveteen Rabbit out. We got to see this in how her character questioned what was real and what wasn't. The relationship of the child and the velveteen rabbit is pivotal to the show working, and they were able to bring all the moments a child and toy go through. When the child gets sick towards the end of the show, and you see the two characters torn apart, it rips you apart as an audience member thanks to the work of these two actresses. The cast also consists of an ensemble consisting of Ella Frost, Ava Gifford, Michael Howland, Caroline Johnson, and Oliver Thrun. They each do a terrific job of switching from character to character when needed throughout the show.

As one of the characters says in the show, "Real isn't how you are made, it's something that happens." The imaginativeness brought to each aspect of this play makes it feel real to the audience both visually and emotionally. If you are looking for an imaginative night for you and your family, look no further than Des Moines Playhouse's production of "The Velveteen Rabbit." Each aspect beautifully captures the childlike imagination we have when we are young. Performances continue in person and virtually through May 9. To find more information, or to purchase tickets, visit The Velveteen Rabbit - Des Moines Playhouse (dmplayhouse.com)

Upcoming Des Moines Playhouse Productions
Co-Produced with Pyramid Theatre Company
"A Love Offering"-June 4-20

Summer Tent Series
"Godspell"-July 9-August 8
"Plaza Suite"-July 16-August 1
"Polkadots: The Cool Kids Musical"-July 10-August 7

Review was written by DC Felton
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From This Author DC Felton