Sunday, February 10, 2013

Bunnicula, the Musical!

Everyone knows that vampire bunnies and showtunes go together like PB and J. OK, so nobody knows that. Still, it's true - they make a delightful combination. How do I know? Because, on Saturday the kids and I had the pleasure of taking in Bunnicula, a new musical for kids at the DR2 theater.

The book series Bunnicula has been around since we were kids, though I didn't discover it until a few years ago while scouring the library for non- terrifying vampire kids books for my Dracula- obsessed 4 year- old. Now Primo is reading the series to himself at school-- kid still loves vampire and now, so does his little sister. They both happen to love musicals too, as evidenced by the fact that they know every note of The Phantom of the Opera by heart. So I knew Bunnicula would appeal to them.

But even if your child didn't have a particular affinity for vampires or bunnies or musicals, the show would appeal, as it centers around a talking dog and cat; I have yet to meet a child who does not enjoy wry humor delivered by anthropomorphized domestic animals.

The story begins when the Monroe family finds an adorable bunny rabbit at the movie theater where they went to see Dracula one night. Naturally, they bring him home to join the collection of pets they have already-- a fastidious, over-educated cat named Chester and a sweet, simple-minded dog named Harold, who are unlikely best friends. When the Monroes find their vegetables drained of juice-- albino!-- and bearing fang marks, Chester, sleuth cat, deduces that Bunnicula must be a vampire and resolves to get rid of him, by any means necessary. Harold goes along with Chester's plan for a while until it appears Chester might actually prevail, at which point Harold has to make a choice and decide whose side he's on. Madcap antics, of course, ensue, and by the play's conclusion, everyone -- humans included -- have learned a lesson.

Its a simple story and the characters are pretty straightforward archetypes -- tutu-wearing sister and the brother with endless chemistry experiments -- but it's engaging from start to finish (a tight 65 minutes with no intermission), always moving forward at a lively clip with nary a lag. It helps that the third act takes us out of the Monroe's house into the streets of Centerville, where we meet two alley cats (Seconda's favorite characters),  pass through a pet hospital cum animal correctional facility, complete with a jail warden veterinarian, and get to see Harold, the potbellied dog, dress in drag, pretending to be the Countess of Bologna (in my favorite moment of the play, Chester observes, "You look like a demented Caesar Salad."

What I liked:
-- the musical diversity of the songs -- especially enjoyed the tango "White Tomato"
-- the fact that there were plenty of jokes thrown in to make the adults smile (as when Chester observes, "I like that bowl! It's Jonathan Adler.")
-- the performances, which were strong across the board

What Primo liked:
-- the clever lyrics
-- the downstage light effect that shone under the character's chins and made them look like they were telling ghost stories

What Seconda liked (alot):
-- When Chester simulates vomiting
-- When Chester chokes on a ball of yarn
-- When Chester scratches the evil vet

Primo and Seconda and I give the play two thumbs up. In fact, as soon as curtain call was over, Seconda turned to me and said "I wnat to see it ten more times!"

Its playing now through April 14th at the DR2 Theater, right smack dab in the middle of Union Square, and is perfect for kids aged 5-12. Enjoy!