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Monday, June 24, 2019
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Classic stories of Peter Rabbit come to life in stage production at The Registry Theatre

Peter Rabbit and his collection of furry friends are preparing to take The Registry Theatre stage for a classic retelling of four of Beatrix Potter’s most beloved tales.

Adapted by local playwright Amy Neufeld, The Tale of Peter Rabbit and Friends includes all the familiar characters recognizable by children and adults alike, including Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddle-Duck, Tom Kitten, and Peter’s nemesis, Mr. McGregor.

“It’s all talking animals which is kind of the greatest thing if you’re a kid, and they’re dressed up in fancy clothes so the kids get to be very excited because the animals are acting like people which is also a lot of fun. And I think for the parents, a lot of us grew up with those stories passed on to us from our parents, so there’s the nostalgia and the familiarity,” Neufeld said.

The stories aren’t too long, so families still have time to read them before the show if they want to refresh their memory. Neufeld says the play sticks fairly closely to the original stories, but they’ve been adapted to a framework that’s a bit more modern.

The four stories they’ll play out on stage are Peter Rabbit, The Tale of Tom Kitten, Jemima Puddle-Duck and The Tailor of Gloucester. She notes The Tailor of Gloucester has a little Christmasy feel to it, perfect for this time of year.

Aside from the animal characters, there will be a mother and daughter on stage. The mother is trying to get her daughter ready for bed, but she’s resisting, so they talk about the stories.

“The mother and daughter morph through the stories as well. So they’ll become characters at some times, sometimes they’ll just be watching, sometimes they’ll help the characters with whatever they’re struggling with or going through,” Neufeld explained.

Audiences will recognize a couple actors who’ve been in all or many of the theatre company, Lightning Banjo’s, shows. Kevin White returns as Mr. McGregor, Tom Cat, Tom Kitten and Simpkin. We first see Tom Cat when he was Tom Kitten, but it turns out Tom Cat is actually the housecat of the mother and daughter.

“Then he’s also playing a cat called Simpkin that is the pet of the Tailor of Gloucester, who is sort of a rebellious fellow and also an interesting character who really walks the line between the human and animal worlds because he is clearly a cat, but he gets sent out to do the shopping and he has a coat he wears,” Neufeld said.

Joy Soltys was seen in Charlotte’s Web last year. She’ll be taking on two very different roles:  Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddle-Duck. Peter Rabbit is often up to mischief, whereas Jemima is a southern damsel in distress who leaves her farm to have ducklings, but gets mixed up with a fox.

“We get to see a real range from Joy. She’s amazing so it’s a real joy to watch,” Neufeld said.

Ajahnis Charley, Hannah Van Muyen, Lynn Scott and Jackie Rouleau are all making their Lightning Banjo debut.

The show is directed by Neufeld’s husband, Sam Varteniuk. This will be the first time their daughters, Daisy and Matilda, are included in one of the couple’s shows. They’re playing mice.

“They’re very excited. We have a six-year-old and she really understands what’s happening and she seems to be trying to get a bigger part. So we’ll show her what she has to do and she’ll do it very well and she’ll say ‘what else will I be doing?’ She definitely is enjoying all aspects of it and wanting to be involved. The little one is only three-and-a-half and she’s doing a great job but she’s just kind of doing what she’s told and as far as she understands she just gets to play make believe on a big stage,” Neufeld shared.

The show is an hour long with no intermission and it shifts around pretty quickly to keep the attention of all the little ones in the audience.

“It’s really the best way to start your holiday season. I encourage that because one, it’s a nice holiday play, but I think it encourages what is important in the season, which is getting together, doing things, being with people, having experiences as opposed to focusing on the more material gift-giving aspects, which are fun too, but I do think it’s a really nice way to set the tone for your holiday.”

Lightning Banjo Productions and JM Drama present The Tale of Peter Rabbit and Friends, running Dec. 1-4 at The Registry Theatre in Kitchener, with shows on Dec. 1 and 2 at 6:30 p.m., and Dec. 3 and 4 at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. There will be a pre-show craft for audience members presented by the KW Art Gallery, and actors will be available after the show to sign autographs. Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for kids, and $5 for high school students. Tickets are available by calling 519-578-1570 or visiting www.registrytheatre.com.

Whitney Neilson
Whitney Neilsonhttp://www.observerxtra.com
Whitney Neilson is a photo journalist for The Observer.

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