Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Whiskers!

On Sunday we took the girls to the Children's Creativity Museum in San Francisco to see "Whiskers!", a musical adaptation by Lyricabella Productions of the beloved children's book "The Velveteen Rabbit" by Margery Williams.

"The Velveteen Rabbit" is a sweet story about a toy's dreams to become real in the eyes of a child. Originally published in 1922, the story has been republished many times over the years and has been adapted into several animated films, musicals and ballets.

Like the book, in this production the story begins the day after Christmas in a children's nursery where a velveteen rabbit, a new Christmas gift, has been put aside in favor of shiny, modern toys. Rabbit, made of velveteen fabric and stuffed with sawdust, feels rejected by the boy who has cast him aside, but quickly makes friends with the other neglected toys, in particular Horse, the oldest toy in the nursery. Horse has been a much loved toy over the years and imparts his wisdom and experiences to Rabbit of what it is to be real. To be loved by a child so much that your fur starts to wear thin, holes appear, and parts fall off, but the love that is felt by the child and the comfort and joy that is brought to them makes it all worthwhile. This is what it is to be real in the eyes of a toy.





As time goes by Rabbit begins to despair as he is passed over in favor of other toys. Until one day when he is chosen by Nana, the children's nanny, to play with the boy. Rabbit is gone for weeks and the other toys begin to worry that he has been cast aside in the garden or that he is lost under a bed. They are overjoyed when Rabbit returns, a little more ragged, to tell them of the wonderful experiences that he has had with the boy and that he is starting to discover how to be real.

Disaster strikes when the boy is struck down with scarlet fever, a potentially fatal disease back when the story was originally written. Rabbit is chosen to comfort the boy and he spends many weeks keeping the boy company in bed as he recovers. During this time Rabbit becomes more ragged and worn, but beloved by the boy. He has finally become real. Unfortunately becoming real has its price, and in Rabbit's case he faces being destroyed. As scarlet fever was such a nasty and contagious disease it was common practice for any clothing, bedding and soft toys that had been in contact with the patient to be burned in order to prevent the germs from spreading.

This sad turn of events sees the set change from the nursery to the garden where we find Rabbit sitting atop a pile of bedding and clothing. Although this is a dark moment for Rabbit he is content knowing that he has been a comfort to the boy in his time of dire need. It is not at all a scary moment for the children in the audience, which I had been a little worried about. A ballerina toy from the nursery appears as the Toy Fairy and she uses her magic to save Rabbit by making him a different kind of real. She turns him into a real rabbit. Not a toy, but an actual rabbit and he is free to hop away with the other real rabbits that live in the garden. He has been rewarded for the love and joy that he brought to the boy in his time of need. 

Ava and Lola both really enjoyed "Whiskers!". Lola danced along in her seat to the musical numbers and I could see her little mouth moving as if trying to sing along - even when she was hearing a song for the first time! By the end of the production there were a few songs that Lola did indeed know the words to and she happily sang along. There were plenty of laughs and fun moments. The cast of characters features many fun toys including Darbie (a blonde haired doll based on everyone's favorite friend from Mattel), a wind up ballerina, a toy soldier who attempts to lead the toys and constantly clashes with Darbie, a tin soldier, a train, a jack in the box, Holly Hobbie and Raggedy Ann. The boy who owns the toys is never seen and the only real person who is seen is Nana who appears in the nursery every now and then to clean or choose a toy to play. The toys enjoy playing mind games with Nana and move around to new positions while her back is turned, much to the delight of the audience.



Ava's favorite character from the production was Darbie. Darbie provided a lot of comedic moments and one liners which we all enjoyed. Ava also liked that Holly Hobbie and Ragedy Ann followed Darbie everywhere taking part in her various activities; shopping, baking, exercising... Darbie's numerous costume changes were another favorite of Ava's.

Lola's favorite character was Rabbit. She liked Rabbit's cuddly appearance, floppy ears and his pink bow.

The girls both agreed that their favorite part of the production was when the toys played tricks on Nana as she cleaned. Judging by the laughter from the audience this part was quite the crowd pleaser. 


The length of the production is perfect for little ones who tire easily when sitting still for too long. 
The characters are fun and engaging, and the songs are definitely very catchy. In fact, I've had one of them stuck in my head the past few days!

Much to the audience's delight, the characters were available to meet in the foyer after the performance. Both Ava and Lola had been looking forward to meeting the characters, but (as usually happens) became too shy to actually approach anyone when it came to it. Ava eventually warmed up and spoke to both Rabbit and Horse, however Lola hid in her stroller! 
  




"Whiskers!" is playing at the Creativity Theater, part of the Children's Creativity Museum in San Francisco, until March 2nd 2014. Performances are held on Saturdays at 11:00am and 2:00pm, and on Sundays at 1:00pm and 3:00pm. 

For tickets and more information please visit the Children's Creativity Museum website by clicking here or visit their Facebook page here.

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