Adapting a popular children’s book for stage isn’t always easy.
Young readers develop a special relationship with the characters and expect them to be the same on stage as they are in the book. When it’s done right, the young audience responds with overwhelming approval.
And the Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia’s audiences have been cheering its production of “Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny” since it hit the road in 2008. The production’s road leads to the Manship Theatre on Sunday, Feb. 28.
“This isn’t our first visit to the Manship Theatre, but I think it may be the first time we’ve brought ‘Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny’ to Baton Rouge,” said Jim Morrow, the theatre’s artistic director. “This has been a popular production for us.”
The show is based on Margaret Wise Brown’s classic children’s stories, “Goodnight Moon,” a celebration of familiar nighttime rituals, and “The Runaway Bunny,” a pretend tale of leaving home, which evokes responses from a loving mom.
Both star a young bunny and his mom, illustrated by Clement Hurd. The challenge was translating Hurd’s illustrations from page to stage.
“It was very difficult adapting these books for the stage,” Morrow said. “You have to think about how to take these stories from two-dimensional images to three dimensions and layer it with music. The kids at these shows are growing up reading these books, and they recognize the characters. They know what to look for.”
The theater brings its characters to life through puppetry, which tell two stories in this show.
“We thought Margaret Wise’s ‘The Runaway Bunny’ was a great complement for her story, ‘Goodnight Moon,’” Morrow said. “This is about a one-hour play with one story in the first half of the hour and the other in the second half. At the end, we’ll have a question-and-answer session.”
This is where kids, who are never shy, can question the puppeteers.
Of course, many have questions about the puppetry. Three performers and one stage manager travels with this show, with the three performers operating all of the characters. The performers dress in dark clothing, becoming a part of the background, directing all eyes to the puppets.
“This is the largest show for the Mermaid Theatre, and it’s the fourth time we’ve toured it,” Morrow said. “It’s toured North America and Asia, and while we’re touring this show, we’re touring two others. One of those will be in Singapore in a week, so we’re pretty busy.”
But Morrow is excited about the show’s stop in Baton Rouge.
“I don’t always travel with the show, but I will be coming to Baton Rouge,” he said. “It just sounds so exotic with its warm weather, because right now, all we have is snow. We’re always excited when Baton Rouge is one of our destinations.”