By Jori Waldron
Too many children in Chicagoland have yet to experience live theater, which is a shame with all of the wonderful venues in the area. Lincolnshire’s Marriott Theatre is conveniently located with free parking and shows perfect for first-time theater goers.
The company’s current production of The Velveteen Rabbit is an ideal outing for young people, probably best suited for those over age five, to see a one-hour performance of a classic story. Since this theater is in the round and isn’t more than 10 rows deep on any side, every seat is a good one. Young audiences’ productions are cast with the same professionals found in the mainstage adult shows, and the actors also complete the children’s performances with a 10-minute question-and-nswer session to give children a chance to learn more about the theater and what it takes to put on a show.
This musical, loosely adapted from the book published in 1922 by Margery Williams, is one many adults will remember from their childhoods. The story focuses on a six-year-old boy and his affection for a toy rabbit. The boy becomes sick with scarlet fever, so when he recovers, the doctor requests that his family eliminate anything that might contain germs. The rabbit is thrown away, but magically becomes real. The beautifully written book contains many memorable lines, such as “Real isn’t how you are made…it’s a thing that happens to you.” Although the Marriott alters the story somewhat by framing it in a flashback and setting it in modern times, the essence of the plot remains the same.
The performance take place on a minimalist set with a tiny orchestra and only six actors. The boy named Steve, played by Devin DeSantis, does a fantastic job of transitioning from an adult to his younger self reflecting on his memories in the nursery. His energy could only be matched by the Velveteen Rabbit (Dara Cameron) who has a lovely voice and gives a heartfelt performance. The comic relief in the show comes from Steve’s brother, Ben (Jonathan Butler-Duplessis), and the Toy Boat (Sharriese Hamilton) who add some modern gadgets to a dated story. The Rocking Horse (Mark David Kaplan) takes on the role of a mentor to the Rabbit and offers sage advice throughout the performance, while the Wild Rabbit (Zoe Nadal) gives the Velveteen Rabbit a goal for the future.
With a nice combination of sentimental and fun songs, the show enchants audience members of all ages.
Marriott Theatre presents “The Velveteen Rabbit” through August 14 at 10 Marriott Dr, Lincolnshire, with all performances at 10:00 am on Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. More information and tickets ($17.23) are available online here.