Vampire bunny bites his way onto Louisville stage
“Bunnicula” is a well-known children’s novel that follows the story of a rabbit that may or may not be keeping a big, vegetable-sucking secret. StageOne Family Theatre is putting on a musical production of the harrowing tale.
The book was adapted for the stage by Louisville-born playwright Jon Klein. During the writing process, Klein stayed in contact with one of the authors, James Howe.
He said his interpretation stays pretty true to the original story.
“The only big difference is that this has songs, which were my idea,” Klein said. “I put the lyrics in the script so that they didn't have any choice but to provide a composer. After I wrote the first draft, I just felt it needed that.”
Over the years, Klein has seen the way other theaters chose to bring the titular rabbit character to life on stage. The best way in his opinion: a puppet.
“It's kind of a bit of an alien feeling. A little strange, but then again, it can't harm you,” Klein said. “The best puppeteers who have worked the ‘Bunnicula’ play have found ways to give the Bunnicula wonderful personality.”
While the rabbit has no spoken lines, Klein said in other productions it hasn’t stopped the silent puppet from stealing the show.
Bunnicula was created by Mary Shelley Electric Company puppet designer Deva North and will be operated by Xavier Harris.
The play has a lot going on. A puppet, both child and adult actors and several musical numbers.
Cami Glauser choreographed the StageOne production and is also its director.
She said the opportunity to bring a story children might have read in the pages of a book to life in 3D on stage is one of her favorite parts of the production.
“It's so unique… the idea of having a bunny Dracula,” Glauser said “But [it’s] a fun, easy twist on it, where Bunnicula drinks the blood, or the life of these vegetables, which I think is a really fun way of exploring these kinds of really cool Halloween themes,” Glauser said.
As a musical theater kid at heart, Glauser said she enjoys the show’s sonic variety.
“There's a tango, there's a ballet, there's a fun bouncy number,” she said. “I love incorporating music and heightening those moments to tell the story there.”
Glauser said the show’s cast and creative team has been tremendously supportive, taking her ideas seriously and strengthening them with their own.
That cast includes Katherine Martin and Neill Robertson, who play Chester the cat and Harold the dog respectively.
The play is told mainly from the perspective of the pets who were in the household long before Bunnicula arrived.
“[That] is so funny because of the way that we relate to animals and their little secret thoughts and worlds,” Martin said. “I think the book and the play really brings you their perspective to life in such a funny, interesting way of how they view the home and what comes in and out of it.”
Both Martin and Robertson said the biggest reaction they’ve gotten has been from adults.
“A lot of my peers now have children or are teachers. And so they are reintroducing those stories to their kids that they love so much,” Robertson said.
To him, “Bunnicula” is a timeless story. It teaches a lesson about accepting others who might be different from you.
So is Bunnicula simply a rabbit with strange eating habits or a vampire-hare hybrid?
The original novel never confirms which one. Audiences will have to decide for themselves.
“Bunnicula” runs at StageOne Family Theatre from Oct. 14 through Oct. 28 with several sensory-friendly shows.
Editor’s note: Louisville Public Media receives some financial support from StageOne Family Theatre and is a sponsor of some of its productions.