The beloved children’s book gets loving, musical treatment to the delight of its many fans

It was shortly after the end of World War II that an American writer named Margaret Wise Brown published a book for children titled Goodnight Moon. Just a few years later, Brown died in France at age 42, from a blood clot.

I read that sad fact in a sheet inserted in the program for the musical version of Goodnight Moon, now showing at the Denver Center’s Conservatory Theatre through February. I also read that the book still sells 800,000 copies a year and has been translated into 15 languages.

Listen to an OnStage Colorado podcast interview with ‘Goodnight Moon’ director Allison Watrous

Another tidbit: Clement Hurd, the illustrator who created the “Great Green Room” of the book in such vivid and memorable colors, wasn’t great at drawing people — so he went for a bunny as the book’s protagonist.

Whether it was the somewhat odd-looking room, the woodland animal transposed to a human child’s bedroom, Brown’s soothing, repetitive language or a combination of all of it, Goodnight Moon is something of a phenomenon. I read it to my kids so often that by the time our youngest was of age, it was part of my goodnight routine as much as his. Andy often had to nudge me back awake to finish it, and he also had to urge me to stop trying to read it to him after he’d gotten past the age of 8 or so.

Read more about the show from the Denver Center’s John Moore.

So, heading into the theatre to see the live, musical version of this cornerstone piece of literature in our family (and many, many others), I was a little apprehensive. After all, the action in the book would barely fill five minutes on stage. What would the rest be?

Chad Henry adapted the book for the stage, and he created a story with music and lyrics that brings Bunny (who’s silent in the book) to life as a hyperactive kid who just can’t go to sleep. Rakeem Lawrence does a wonderful job personifying Bunny as a cute and only mildly annoying kid who spends the hour-long show bouncing off the walls when he should be in bed.

Directed by Allison Watrous, it all takes place on an extraordinary set that combines the precise look of the book with a funhouse menagerie of gimmicks and gadgets that had all the little kids in the audience giggling throughout.

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