By Leah M. Griffin
Dallas Children’s Theater completed their run of Beatrix Potter’s classic “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” very appropriately, on Easter. This musical take on the family classic was enchanting in every way. Peter, his three sisters Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-Tail, and Mother Rabbit were all brought to life by the wonderfully talented puppeteers and voice actors behind the scenes. The towering, lumbering Mr. McGregor provided comedic relief in a non-threatening, yet villainous manner onstage as the only human actor.
From the moment I entered the theatre I was captivated by the detail and beauty of the elaborate set which truly made the audience feel as if we had just stepped into a storybook. The dimming of the lights and the arrival of Peter and his sisters stirred wide eyed wonder. As the children learn that Father Rabbit had succum to the temptations of Mr. McGregor’s tasty vegetable garden, Peter’s curiosity is suddenly peaked. Against the bidding of his mother and the pleas of his sisters, Peter inevitably follows in his fathers footsteps and ventures into McGregor’s forbidden garden. After gorging on veggies, a harrowing chase ensues as Peter desperately flees the grasp of McGregor to avoid being cooked into a pie as his father had been before him. Narrowly escaping McGregor’s net, Peter finally reaches the gate and though he loses his jacket in the final struggle, he returns safely home to his worried family.
This show is filled with lessons that every young one must learn during childhood; obey your parents instructions, never take what is not yours, resist the temptations of mischief, and last but not least, eat your vegetables. To the tune of Peter’s rampant appetite, a catchy number is thrown into the mix listing all of the delicious and (conveniently for the parents) nutritious veggie
treats that Peter begins to eat. More than likely your children will not be begging for broccoli and beets on the car ride home. However, any introduction into the wonderful world of veggies surely couldn’t go amiss.
The single most impressive aspect of this production, for me, was the seamless transitions from marionette to theatre rod puppets. The two techniques were used to give a different feel to each of the worlds. The theatre rod puppets, used against a traditional black backdrop, were set in the den home of Peter and his family. The slightly larger sized puppets, the dark background, and dim front lighting drew the audience into the den, while the nearly invisible strings of the marionettes set against the wide open backdrop of the nearby meadow where the children played truly expanded the world of the bunnies’ backyard.
I would say, however, that the pacing, content of the show, and the energy from the performers would be best suited for children in the 2 – 8 year old age range. Due to the lack of set changes and predominantly sung dialogue, younger minds would be more enthralled with this world rather than older ones. All in all I give this performance a 5 out of 5 stars. Although this particular production has closed, if has been any indication of the caliber of productions to be seen at DCT, I will most definately return to be impressed again and again.
Visit www.DTC.org for ticket and information for upcoming shows including their newest show this weekend: Balloonacy, the story of a solitary old man who reluctantly makes friends with a wayward red balloon that floats into his window as he is celebrating his birthday alone. Opening night is Friday, April 10.