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Regional Reviews: Phoenix

Goodnight Moon
Review by Gil Benbrook | Season Schedule

Also see Gil's reviews of Sweeney Todd, Becoming Dr. Ruth, The Bridges of Madison County, All My Sons, and Fences

Chanel Bragg and Michael Thompson
Photo by Tim Trumbule
In 1947, author Margaret Wise Brown and illustrator Clement Hurd created the simple children's rhyming bedtime story "Goodnight Moon" that features a young rabbit saying "good night" to the various objects he can see from his bed. Chad Henry has taken that simple story and expanded it into a silly, fun, and heartwarming 90-minute musical about a young bunny child who is too restless to sleep. This family-friendly show will charm even the crankiest person and Childsplay's production is a stunning display of colorfully creative designs and features a talented quartet of actors.

Chad Henry's adaptation takes many of the items and words from the book and turns them into characters in the show, as well as using them in musical numbers, to create a fleshed out musical. In this adaptation, which is set in the great green bedroom from the book, Bunny is too exhausted and a little too cranky to sleep. The Old Lady reads to him, gets him a glass of water, tucks him in, and does many other things to try to get him to go to bed, but the various items in his room come to life and keep him awake.

The idea of taking various items mentioned in the book, including things in the pictures on the wall in the book illustrations, and turning them into musical numbers is brilliant. The best of these is when the picture that features bears and chairs brings the bears to life and turns into a tap dancing game of musical chairs. But Henry doesn't just focus on fun and games—he instills the show with a loving sense of care and warmth with the tender but firm touch of the Old Lady. While the dozen original musical numbers aren't that memorable they do add to the fun of the show and represent a range of musical styles.

As usual, Childsplay's cast and creative elements are superb. Director Anthony Runfola uses a combination of effectively staged, simple storytelling and theatrical razzle dazzle to entertain and keep even the youngest of theatergoers entranced. With the use of blacklight effects, set pieces that come to life, and beautifully designed costumes, it is a truly magical affair. Molly Lajoie's choreography utilizes a range of styles, all of which add to the fun of the show. The set elements by Holly Windingstad are awash in technicolor and imagination as are Connie Furr Soloman's costumes, hair, and make-up designs. Lighting designer Tim Monson creates some lovely images of starry skies that slowly turn dark as the play progresses.

As the young Bunny, Michael Thompson couldn't be better. He has an appropriate childlike innocence along with the rambunctious energy of a child who can't sit still and is restless and not at all ready to go to sleep. Chanel Bragg is simply lovely as the Old Lady, while Michelle Chin is endearing as a Mouse and Tommy Strawser is a charmer as a Tooth Fairy who does a little soft shoe routine. These three also play other parts with ease.

While Goodnight Moon may be targeted for younger theatergoers, children of all ages will enjoy Childsplay's production of this sweet, magical story of the little restless Bunny and the magical things he experiences as he attempts to go to sleep.

Goodnight Moon at Childsplay runs through April 2nd, 2016, at the Tempe Center for the Arts, 700 W. Rio Salado Parkway in Tempe, with performances on Saturdays at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. and Sundays at 1 p.m. Tickets are on sale at or at the Tempe Center for the Arts Box Office 480-350-2822 (ext. 0).

Based on the book written by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Clement Hurd
Book, Music and Lyrics by Chad Henry
Director: Anthony Runfola
Musical Director: Alan Ruch
Choreographer: Molly Lajoie
Scenic Design: Holly Windingstad
Costume/Hair & Makeup Design: Connie Furr Soloman
Lighting Design: Tim Monson
Sound Design: Christopher Neumeyer
Video Design: Limitrophe Films
Stage Manager: Sarah G. Chanis

Michael Thompson: Bunny
Chanel Bragg: Old Lady/Dish/Bear
Michelle Chin: Mouse/Cat/Bear
Tommy Strawser: Tooth Fairy/ Kittens/Dog/Bear

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