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THE VELVETEEN RABBIT presented by Y.E.S. (Youth Education Series)

A Review of Morgan-Wixson's Newest Production

By Chanin Victor - Publisher Santa Monica Macaroni Kid February 8, 2018

If you are not familiar with "The Velveteen Rabbit", it's a children's book by Margery Williams and illustrated by William Nicholson, first published in 1922.  A stuffed rabbit, made out of velveteen, is given to a young child, who tends to play with the more mechanical and fancier toys.  This saddens the Velveteen Rabbit and he longs to become real through the love of his owner.  The story is sweet, with a little bit of drama, for excitement and some melancholy moments as well to pull on those heart strings.   

The Y.E.S. (Youth Education/Entertainment Series) at the Morgan-Wixson Theatre has presented numerous family-friendly youth musicals, and this enchanting story is currently springing to life every weekend between now and February 18th, every Saturday and Sunday at 11AM.  It's an adorable production with an extremely talented cast of young actors and we were thoroughly impressed by their performances.  The two "big stars" of the show were Thea Lawson, (Velveteen Rabbit) and Mimi Vizzi (Eve).  We were blown away by their professionalism and singing/acting abilities, which made the show.  The Toy Boat was pretty darn-tooting good as well! 

There were numerous dance numbers throughout the show and we especially loved the rabbits dancing around (see below).  They were super cute!  The musical numbers really jazzed up the story and made it all the more endearing to the MANY kids in the audience.  Clearly, this book is a favorite of kids of all ages and it was a chance for the book to come to life. 

The cast of the Santa Monica Morgan-Wixson Theatre's Youth Musical is the talented kids of the Youth Education Entertainment Series, AKA Y.E.S. The Y.E.S. program is committed to promoting children's literacy by bringing books to life.  99% of the time, the Y.E.S. shows are based on children's literature.  

The Mainstage also has two musicals based on children's literature coming this season: "Little Women" (March 17 - April 14) and "Mary Poppins" (June 30- Aug 4). 

FYI: Parents and Teachers...a great idea would be to read the book together and then go see the show.  Read the Book!  See the Show!  

There is no other musical theatre program for kids like this in West LA.  The kids here are really serious about musical theatre.  The audition process (including rejections!), rehearsal schedule, and expectations for professionalism all reflect what it's like to do musical theatre as an adult.  Many Y.E.S. kids may do MWT Mainstage shows as well, such as "Seussical the Musical", which I also saw and reviewed, or they may choose to instead work behind the scenes on tech or even direct for some shows.  So, it's an amazing opportunity for these kids.  MWT is the perfect place to expose young children to musical theatre as audience members as well.

I think my favorite part of the musical was how the toys came to life every time Eve wasn't watching.  They were all so animated and energized and then if Eve appeared, they froze!  It was such an amazing cast, I forgot I was watching young kids perform.  I kept thinking they had to be older because they were soooooo good!  The costumes were great and the sets incredible as well.  The show was about an hour and a half, so when it let out at 12:30, we took photos with the cast, got our autographs and went to lunch.  It would be a fab way to spend your Saturday or Sunday with friends and family.  It was so much fun!

If you think your child might be interested in being a part of the  Y.E.S. productions, they are open to all and there are no fees or membership dues for participation. To perform or work behind-the-scenes, please sign up to receive audition information by joining their mailing list.  Also, most of these kids take a three-hour dance workshop (jazz, tap, ballet) each Sunday afternoon that, although open to all but not required, was specially designed to fit the dance needs of Y.E.S.  For more info on the Winter Dance Workshop, click HERE. 

Don't forget, the Morgan-Wixson Theatre has been around since 1966, after the "old" Morgan theatre burned down.  Like anything that ages, it gets a little shabby and needs some good old rejuvenation.  So...Fixin' the Morgan-Wixson is in the works.  There will be two phases and "Phase One" is the seats.  They plan to replace the seat cushion and seat backs, as well as replace the cork on the back of the house and possibly replace the house and side lights and expect to have that completed sometime next year.  "Phase Two" is still a little up in the air since they are still in planning stages, but the general plan is to renovate the lobby, bathrooms, create an outside lobby space in the alley, and completely change the look of the front of the theatre.  They are hoping to keep the theatre open during the major "Phase Two" renovation, but they may need to delete one show in the season to accommodate the renovation.  It is still to be determined.  

The next musical will be "Curious George: The Golden Meatball" and then "The Little Mermaid Jr."  Finally, the play this season will be "Junie B. Jones Is Not  A Crook".   I would definitely recommend this as a fun thing to do on the weekend with your family.  Kids from ages 3-8 and all the way up to teenagers would find it to be entertaining at the very least.  My daughter loved it, especially since "The Velveteen Rabbit" was one of her favorite books as a baby!   

You can get tickets at the Box Office by calling 310-828-7519 or going online at www.morgan-wixson.org.  I would get them soon as they are probably going to continue having sold out performances, as they should.  

Convenient free parking is available at the Venice Family Clinic at 2509 Pico Boulevard, just one block west of the theatre.


Photo Credit: Miriam Billington