Reviewed by Katherine O’Donnell
The beloved storybook Goodnight Moon charmingly comes to life on the stage of Virginia Rep’s Children’s Theatre at Willow Lawn. A talented cast of six, many of whom play several quick-changing parts, make for an hour of enchanting entertainment for families with young kids.
We start off with the all-too-familiar scene of trying to get a child to go to sleep. Of course, in this case the little one is Bunny, played by the spunky and well-rounded Brandon McKinney (you might remember him from Mame during the holidays last year onstage at November Theatre). The Old Woman, whom every parent can relate to, handles Bunny’s defiance with grace and in song. Actress Jessi Johnson’s beautiful voice and charming presence was captivating and endearing. The show also cleverly weaves in a reading of Runaway Bunny, the companion book to Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. As a parent, I found the “Mister Nobody” number quite funny as Bunny and Mouse, played by Audrey Kate Taylor, explained all the things that were of course, nobody’s fault.
Once The Old Woman leaves the “great green room,” the real fun begins. A magical world of fairy tales come to life with singing, dancing and adventures, like pulling Bunny’s loose tooth. Anything and everything except sleeping. “Hey Diddle Diddle” had my 6-year-old daughter, Norah, dancing in her seat.
A family favorite for our collective crew was “Tooth Fairy.” Larry the Tooth Fairy, played by the energetic and fast-footed Brent Gallahan, charmed us all with his antics complete with purple tutu, wings, and fanny pack.
At first glance, the set mirrors the “great green room” from the classic book illustrations. But once the play is underway to the surprise of the audience, the stage comes to life through clever design. The interactive set advances the story and engages the audience. Two especially finicky items, a lamp and the bed covers, had the kids howling with laughter.
After ten toe-tapping numbers, even more costume changes, and dozens of delights from the set, the finale, “Goodnight Moon,” does not disappoint. The ensemble sings a lovely lullaby and Bunny recites the familiar words, “Goodnight noises everywhere,” and finally sleeps.
Norah has been to several Virginia Rep Children’s Theatre performances, but this was our 3-year-old son Henry’s, first. It was a perfect musical for him—short, engaging, and fun. He loved it, and so did we. Once it ended, Norah said, “I want to see it again.”
See Goodnight Moon at Virginia Rep’s Children’s Theatre at Willow Lawn with your little ones through August 2. For showtimes and ticket information, visit Goodnight Moon.
Katherine O’Donnell lives in Henrico County with her husband, Darby, two kids, and one cat. She’s an avid RVA fan and a University of Richmond graduate. A North Carolina native, she says y’all regularly and believes snow should always be an occasion to celebrate.