Things that are difficult to enjoy: taking a 4 year old and 22 month old to the movies, to the store, to a restaurant or just about anywhere. Wiggling, screaming, begging for snacks and other general chaos usually ensues. Then don’t get me started on getting the toddler back into her car seat. Limp noodle anyone?
Things that are surprisingly easy to enjoy: Taking my 4 year old and 22 month old to a children’s show at the Marriott Theatre Lincolnshire.
We recently took these same two squirmy wormy kids to see The Velveteen Rabbit, which is now currently playing at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire, and a miracle happened. Both children remained seated for an entire hour. Engaged, no fussing, no fighting, no begging for snacks, no wiggling around. They could have charged $100 a ticket for that kind of peace.
What kind of voodoo magic captured their attention for so long?
This musical adaptation of a story that is very familiar to them was fun, very animated, engaging of their senses and on a stage like no other. The cast was superbly talented, professional and a caliber of what I would expect to see in downtown Chicago at one of the renown venues in the south loop.
The play was not quite what I expected plot wise. It takes the timeless tale of the well-loved bunny and personalizes it. It starts with little boy “Steve” as an adult, rummaging through his old toys looking for a particular item when he comes across some of his favorites, including the Velveteen Rabbit. The rest of the show is then a flashback to the well-known story of the Velveteen rabbit as we generally know it, but with more depth of characters and emotion. I felt like I really get to know some of the characters. Then the end of the story takes him back to present day, with many lessons learned in love and growth and family along the way. The show is full of life lessons, including the ups and downs of a brotherly relationship and what it means to be “real.”
I, as a momma, cried. I’m not sure if its the story that does it to me anyway or the beauty in the performance and emotionality. I assume it was a bit of both, but that is how connected I got to the story and the performance.
The performance is a musical and therefore much of it was song. I didn’t realize it until the end, but the music was all performed by a live orchestra. It was so well refined that I assumed it was a recording. The cast was superb. There are only 6 participants in the show and each was as talented as the next. Devin DeSantis plays the lead role as “Steve” the man and the young boy. He really brings his character alive in both life seasons and makes you fall in love with him, creating more meaning in being “real”. Jonathon Butler-DuPlessis played my son’s favorite character, as his name, Ben, mirrored his own and was also the big brother. This character made the biggest change throughout the play and went from mean older brother to become quite endearing. Dara Cameron played the Velveteen Rabbit, portraying an endearing, innocent and lovable character as you would imagine the bunny would be. Two more toys were played by Sharriese Hamilton, who has a showstopping energy and voice that brought down the house, and a very talented Mark David Kaplan. And the energetic “real bunny” was played by Zoe Nadal, who showcased beautiful dancing and energy galore.
The show is one hour long with no intermission. This was a perfect length for kids, not too long and not too short. It kept my wiggly kids attention the entire time, 4 and almost 2. I also had a boy sitting on the other side of us who was about 9 and also was enamored. After the show ended, the characters and actors introduced themselves and then opened up the floor to the audience to ask the cast questions, any questions. Some questions were as simple as “what was your favorite toy as a child” to deeper questions such as “do you believe the toys are really real?” The cast gave such loving and honest answers.
We had such a great time. Attending the 10 am show, I felt perfectly refreshed and capable and brave enough to take the kids out to lunch afterward.
We are looking forward to more family outings to the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire, especially for the Nutcracker in the winter. There is a great selection of quality shows to choose from left this year.
The Velveteen Rabbit plays most Tuesdays through Sundays at 10:00 a.m. with occasional 12:30 p.m. performances. Visit MarriottTheatre.com or call (847) 634-0200 for an exact schedule, as show times and dates vary. Single ticket prices are $17.23 per person (includes fees and taxes). Free parking is available at all shows.
Disclosure: The writer received tickets to the media preview in order to facilitate this review. All thoughts and opinions are her own and no further compensation was received.