Dallas — Dallas Children's Theater is known for the magic they produce on their stage to the delight of all ages—after all, they did once land on Time magazine's list of the top five children's theaters in the nation. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane is a departure for them, but to borrow a word from the show's title, what a miraculous one!
Adapted by Dwayne Hartford from two-time Newbery Medal winner Kate DiCamillo's 2006 book of the same name, DCT's regional premiere of The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane puts the emphasis on storytelling. Powerful storytelling.
Edward Tulane is a china rabbit—a well-dressed, kind of snooty rabbit given to a young girl named Abilene in the 1920s. He arrives with a complete wardrobe, which he takes very seriously. When his family sets sail on a ship, Edward flies overboard and spends more than 200 days at the bottom of the ocean before he is rescued by a fisherman, and his real journey begins. Edward's adventures take him into vastly different situations encountering people with diverse circumstances and challenges. As he makes his journey, he worries less about his appearance and learns compassion, empathy and the truest meaning of love.
DCT's Associate Artist Director Artie Olaisen deftly directs a strong cast of five adults who play 26 characters along Edward's journey. Sonny Franks (The Man) and Johnny Lee (The Musician) gently underscore the show with original music composed and arranged by them and performed acoustically on guitar and banjo. Lee also is the inner voice of Edward as he moves from snobbish rabbit with an acerbic wit to a wiser, world-weary rabbit who learns life's most important lessons.
Steph Garrett as The Woman makes the seamless transitions that include an exuberant young Abilene, Nellie, the fisherman's wife; a dog named Lucy, an ailing child named Sarah Ruth, and a china doll with sage advice for Edward. Her characters have the most diverse range, and she masters each of them.
Franks handles his roles as a fisherman, a hobo and a diner owner with humor as well as the gravitas his characters demand in Edward's story, all while providing the underscoring along with Lee. Georgia Clinton as The Traveler is a mesmerizing storyteller, providing the narrative as well as playing various roles. Haulston Mann rounds out the cast as The Other, playing supportive roles and adding poignancy as Sarah Ruth's protective brother.
There are several Edward Tulanes in the show to accommodate his transformations. The actors move Edward about to match the narrative. This is especially effective when Edward falls overboard and drifts slowly down in the depths of the ocean to rest on the bottom.
Costume Designer Lyle Huchton creates period-perfect basic costumes for the actors. As they move from character to character, they transform their look on stage with hats, scarves, sweaters, capes and jackets.
H. Bart McGeehon's set is deceptively simple with wood plank floors that extend out over the steps leading up to DCT's main stage. Wooden panels provide a backdrop for projections and slide into a configuration that magically becomes a moving railroad car. Trunks and suitcases are the set dressing and ingeniously also serve as steps from platform to platform.
While lighting design is always vital to a show, it's Jason Lynch's design in Edward Tulane that showcases just how vital it can be. An open suitcase becomes a flickering hobo campfire. A velvety night sky fills with stars. Stage lights take on stunning dimension with the use of haze. And in a heart-stopping moment in Edward's journey, Lynch's lights combined with McGeehon's projections take the audience's breath away.
DCT recommends The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane for those 7 and older. The opening night audience was enthralled with the story as it unfolded before them. Parents may want to tuck a tissue in their pockets.
As Abilene's grandmother says in the show, "We are all on our own journey." Taking time out of yours to experience Edward Tulane's miraculous one is time you won't regret spending.