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Bunnicula: the Musical

April 7, 2013

I went to see Bunnicula: The Musical this afternoon. For basically no other reason than the fact that my seven-year-old self had loved the books.

And I figured, a musical about a vampire rabbit who left in his wake a trail of albino vegetables, drained of their juices… how bad could it be?

The answer: it was delightfully goofy. I was very pleased. Josh, my theater buddy on this outing, said “it was just the right mix of nostalgia, lighthearted camp and musical goodness.”

The story is this- the Monroe family adopts a bunny they find at a showing of Dracula at the local theater. The bunny is a little odd- sleeps all day, and may or may not have glowing red eyes. Chester, the very well-read family cat is convinced Bunnicula’s some kind of sinister vampire. Harold, the family dog, is maybe slower on the uptake. Josh noticed Harold’s resemblance to Barf, from Spaceballs. I agree. The family pet characters were dressed in velour sort of tracksuits and hats with animal ears. Both actors worked physically very well, blending animal and anthropomorphic physicality really well.

I think I liked the show as much as I wanted to, which was a relief, because it meant that books I loved as a kid were adapted well. I could giggle and accept what I saw at face value, with lines like “I was in Centreville in salad drag” or the delightfully campy-ominous tones of the “Bunnicula!” introduction song. And I could also see the ways the musical was written perfectly for its intended six-year-old-ish audience, with a little bit of slapstick, some broadly drawn and emphasized musical humor, funny talking animal characters, and catchy songs. A couple of Teachable Moments thrown in.

It worked the way of a good kids’ movie- with plenty of fun that could reach kids, but enough to keep grownups on board.

I admit, I went to the show with cautiously high expectations. As a kid, I loved the Bunnicula books by James and Deborah Howe. And books, especially favorite books, translated into other media, are in for a tough test against memory and imagination. Even more so, when they’re up against nostalgia and childhood memory.
Watching, I could see a lot of what I remembered loving from the books. The Monroes, oblivious to Chester and Harold’s ongoing conversation, Chester the cat who read Dracula and developed an unhealthy obsession with the possibly-vampire bunny. Affable, slightly buffoonish dog Harold, who just wanted to be left to chew his sneaker in peace. Dressing actors up to play animals in a children’s play asks a lot of the actors. Dressing them up to play characters I remember fondly asks even more.
For the most part, Bunnicula: the Musical nailed the adaptation. I left happy. And humming a few tunes from the show.
Bunnicula: The Musical stage set

photo by Josh Lipowski


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