AMANA — My youngest child is a very serious Bunnicula fan. She had her mom make her a Bunnicula costume for Halloween last year. She wore it with great pride, patiently (mostly) explaining to her misguided friends that she most certainly was not dressed as the Easter Bunny.
When we arrived at the Old Creamery Theatre for Young Audiences production of “Bunnicula” on Saturday afternoon (10/20/12), she looked at her program and immediately raised some concerns about the eponymous character’s costume for the play. She was convinced it wasn’t an accurate representation of author James Howe’s description of the rabbit in the book of the same name. She had a point. On the other hand, the on-stage bunny didn’t look likely to hide any jelly bean-filled eggs.
But costume quibbles or no, this production won her approval in the end. “I really like it,” she told me at intermission. “I loved it!” she enthused at the end, before hauling me off to stand in line for autographs.
The cast, under the direction of Sean McCall, gave her plenty to love. In fact, a full house of young people and the adults who love them had a great afternoon.
The story is perfect for Halloween. Harold (Jeff Haffner of Cleveland), a dog, and Chester (Nicholas Hodge of South Amana), a cat, find their happy life in the Monroe home disrupted when the family discovers a rabbit at a showing of “Dracula.” When the family’s vegetables start turning white in the night, Chester concludes that Bunnicula (Elizabeth Higbee of Tonganoxie, Kan.) is a vampire and a threat to the entire household. Mayhem ensues.
Haffner and Hodge were simply delightful from beginning to end. Whether singing and dancing (the show has three musical numbers plus a reprise), trading banter, or engaging in animal-appropriate physical comedy, they were perfect. Vaughn Irving of Washington, D.C., and Jackie McCall of Marengo as Mr. and Mrs. Monroe were excellent, as were ninth grader Brennan Urbi and fifth grader Max Locher of Cedar Rapids as the Monroe boys, Toby and Pete.
Higbee doesn’t speak a single word in the play, but she brought plenty of personality to her role. From magically escaping from the hutch to baring fangs at Chester, Bunnicula’s mysterious and mischievous sides were brought to life by Higbee’s portrayal.
From a technical point of view the production also was flawless. The set, designed by Tom Milligan, is simple — no doubt in part because Old Creamery is also presenting “The 39 Steps” in the same space during this period and must be able to change the set easily — but effective. Hodge’s lighting design allows for some fun effects and isolation of characters for key moments, and Annette Rubin’s costumes — despite my daughter’s notes about the Bunnicula suit — are charming. Ryan Milligan’s sound design is appropriately creepy and Higbee’s props — especially the large white vegetables that figure so prominently — are great.
“Bunnicula” is, in short, great entertainment for young people. My daughter and I recommend the source material, too.
Where: Old Creamery Theatre main stage, 39 38th Ave., Amana
When: 1 p.m. Oct. 27 and Nov. 3; 10 a.m. Oct. 23, 25 and 27
Tickets: Reserved seats $8 all ages, Old Creamery Box Office, 1-(800) 352-6262 or Oldcreamery.com