Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Peter Rabbit and Me

Olympia Family Theater Does Beatrix Potter

Carolyn Willems Van Dijk as Peter Rabbit and Rich Young as Mr. McGregor. Photo by Alexis Sarah.
Peter Rabbit and Me at Olympia Family Theater, written by Aurand Harris, is a delightfully joyful play for young children. It’s also as energetic a show as you’re likely to see anytime soon, with a lot running and jumping (hopping, to be more precise).

In a wonderfully inventive and educational twist on the popular children’s book The Tale of Peter Rabbit, we see unfolding not only the tale of how the irascible Peter Rabbit sneaks in to Mr. McGregor’s garden to eat vegetables until he’s sick, we see acted out in a joyful way the story of how Beatrix Potter wrote and illustrated her stories.

Two tales of Peter Rabbit—his first dangerous venture into the garden in the first act and his daring return in the second act—alternate with scenes of the young Beatrix at home with her brother, Bertum, and their governess, Miss Hammond. As the two scene alternate, actors double up to play two or more characters each.

Carolyn Willems Van Dijk plays Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit.
Rich Young plays Beatrix’s father Potter and Mr. McGregor.
Stephanie Kroschel plays Miss Hammond and Mother Rabbit (mother to Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail and Peter).
Jared Greene is a ton of characters, including Bertum, Cotton-tail, the baker’s boy, and Mr. Mouse (he has to change ears and tails frequently).
Hannah Eklund plays an unnamed girl, a bird, and Flopsy.
And finally, Katrina Groen plays the other girl, bird, and Mopsy.
Naturally, Beatrix or Peter are in every scene. There’s hardly a moment when one or the other is not the center of attention, meaning Van Dijk has to do a lot of quick costume changes and believably and entertainingly portray two very different characters—a lovely and loving girl who adores her many pets and is determined to become a great writer and artist. Her big eyes, huge smile and terrific repertoire of expressions make both Beatrix and Peter characters kids love. Regulars at OFT will remember Van Dijk from her so-fun performance as Cinder Edna in the play of the same name by Ted Ryle, in which she worked with director Kate Ayers, who also directs this play.

Young is ideally cast as Mr. McGregor. He is a retired school teacher who has recently returned to theater after a long absence. He creates the put-upon farmer as a character who is absolutely as we imagine him, meaning the hapless and constantly frustrated target of Peter’s shenanigans and the “bad guy” who is really nice. Good job, Rich Young.

The rest of the cast is equally good in their many roles.

The set design by Jeannie Beirne is effective and decorative, and the lighting by Jill Carter is up to her usual excellent standards.

This one runs three weeks only, so don’t let your chance to bring the kids slip by.

Peter Rabbit and Me, Fridays at 7 p.m., Sat.-Sun. at 2 p.m.  through April 3, pay what you can March 25, special 11 a.m. performance March 26, 612 4th Ave E, Olympia, 360-570-1638.

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