When the Great American Children's Theatre of Wisconsin comes to town, it's an occasion. This 20-year-old professional theater company can usually be counted on to satisfy young audiences with big, literature-based shows that are colorful, well-staged and entertaining.
That positive track record makes it all the more disappointing that the company's current production, a static, musically limp adaptation of Margery Williams' classic "The Velveteen Rabbit," whose lengthy Southland tour began Wednesday at the La Mirada Theatre, doesn't live up to expectations.
The show is handsome; set designer Allen H. Jones places a child's upstairs bedroom and playroom against a lovely, painted sky and a vividly outlined, house-shaped scrim that complements Spencer Mosse's evocative lighting effects. Half of the set has oversize proportions to accommodate scenes when the Velveteen Rabbit (Greg Longenhagen) interacts with other toys.
Appreciation for the show's design wears thin, however. Although Shira Flam, who just stepped into the lead role as the Boy five days ago, is on target with boyish energy, under Leslie Reidel's direction, the actors too frequently declaim from stationary positions, and chunks of expository dialogue in Brett W. Reynolds' uninspired script are repeated for the benefit of other characters.