‘Goodnight Moon’: Gobs of fun before ‘hush’

(Mike Horan) - Colin Cech and Maya Brettell in the Adventure Theatre MTC production of Goodnight Moon.

(Mike Horan) - Colin Cech and Maya Brettell in the Adventure Theatre MTC production of Goodnight Moon.

Perseverance pays off for the characters in “Goodnight Moon,” the sweetly impish children’s musical based on the classic picture book by writer Margaret Wise Brown and illustrator Clement Hurd. A playful mouse finally gets to tuck into a bowl of mush. Clarabelle the Daredevil Cow, at long last, succeeds in jumping over the moon. And, as audiences at Adventure Theatre MTC’s sprightly production will find, the Old Lady whispering “Hush” does, eventually, get a certain young bunny to doze off — even if he gets to romp through several bedtime-interrupting adventures first.

Perseverance has also been a necessary recent mode for Adventure, which had 19 canceled “Goodnight Moon” performances and a loss of more than $60,000 because of the recent government shutdown. (The company’s home is on National Park Service grounds, in historic Glen Echo Park.) Having waited out that setback, the company has been able to extend the reopened “Goodnight Moon” through Sunday. And, if a recent matinee is anything to judge by, the production survived the closing with its vim and frolicsome perspective intact. (Adventure recommends the show for audiences of all ages.)

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Adventure scored its first Helen Hayes nomination for a 2008 version of writer-composer Chad Henry’s “Goodnight Moon” musical. This time around, Roberta Gasbarre directs the show, whose scenic design, by Deborah Wheatley, is more loosely adapted from Hurd’s illustrations. This great green room looks like a real kid’s sleeping quarters, with stuffed animals crammed under the bed and on a nearby shelf. Still, the objects and creatures immortalized by Brown and Hurd — that hovering red balloon, the drying mittens, the picture of the leaping cow above the mantelpiece and so on — are reassuringly present.

But this familiar landscape turns out to have a screwball spirit of its own. A lamp and a quilt cavort like living beings. The balloon talks in squeaks. A window admits a male Tooth Fairy (Sam Edgerly), who’s dressed like a quirky rock star in pink and chartreuse, with Bono-style glasses. (Frank Labovitz designed the costumes; Andrea “Dre” Moore the props; Matt Reckeweg the puppets; and Neil McFadden the sound.)

And Bunny (Jake Foster at the reviewed performance; Colin Cech alternates in the role) finds himself hobnobbing with the characters from the nursery rhyme “Hey Diddle Diddle.” They’re enjoyable, zany figures: The Dish (Maya Brettell) hides a rambunctious energy beneath her dainty-as-porcelain look. The fiddle-toting Cat (Dorea Schmidt) wears a leprechaun-style outfit with a plumed hat. These ladies join the Dog (Edgerly) in vaudevillian dances lively enough to banish any hint of sleepiness from Bunny’s green chamber. (Adventure Theatre’s producing artistic director, Michael J. Bobbitt, devised the choreography, which suits Henry’s now-bouncy, now-lilting music.)

Anissa Hartline injects a hint of puckishness into the Old Lady (who, at one point in the musical, leads a song based on “The Runaway Bunny,” another Brown/Hurd picture book). This character can be soothing when she needs to. But, like the musical, she enjoys fun too much to stick to a watchword of “hush.”

Wren is a freelance writer.

Goodnight Moon

Book, music and lyrics by Chad Henry, based on the book by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrator Clement Hurd. Directed by Roberta Gasbarre; assistant director, Tyler Herman; music director, William Yanesh; lighting design, Jedidiah Roe. About one hour. Recommended for all ages. Through Sunday at Adventure Theatre MTC, 7300 MacArthur Blvd., Glen Echo.
301-634-2270 or
www.adventuretheatre-mtc.org.

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