Goodnight Moon. DCPA Education. Photo by John Moore.

Creatively, Denver Center is again shooting for the ‘Moon’

Goodnight Moon. DCPA Education. Photo by John Moore.

The cast of ‘Goodnight Moon,’ from left: Rakeem Lawrence, Mercedes Perez, Susannah McLeod, Maggie Tisdale, Marco Robinson and Sean Scrutchins. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

We are fully bringing all of our artistry to bear to deliver this story at the very highest level’

Last week’s opening rehearsal for Goodnight Moon, DCPA Education’s third annual Theatre for Young Audiences offering, looked very much like the opening rehearsal for any DCPA Theatre Company offering: All the heavy hitters were there. The creative team was made up entirely of Theatre Company veterans. The six Colorado-based actors all have become familiar faces on stages across Colorado over the years. There was DCPA President and CEO Janice Sinden to welcome everyone. Staff, visitors, ambassadors and guests spilled out from the rehearsal studio into hallways. There were opening salutations before each major-league designer got to speak about their complex and creative plans for the staging.

The only difference was that Goodnight Moon is tailored for pre-kindergarten through second-grade audiences. And that is the point, said Allison Watrous, director of the production and also the DCPA’s Executive Director of Education and Community Engagement.

“We are fully bringing all of our artistry to bear to deliver this story at the very highest level,” said Watrous, whose program has grown from 19,000 young audiences in 2016-17 (Snowy Day and Other Stories) to 26,000 in 2017-18 (Corduroy) to an expected 42,000 for Goodnight Moon, which has its first performance October 4 in the Randy Weeks Conservatory Theatre and will play an extended run through next February 16.

Goodnight Moon costume by Kevin Copenhaver. Photo by John Moore

Costume design by by Kevin Copenhaver. Photo by John Moore.

“We hold every one of our artists to the highest aesthetic at every single level of the process,” she said.

For the past 72 years, families around the world have made the classic 1947 children’s book written by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Clement Hurd part of their bedtime ritual. Like the book, the story follows a little boy as he carries out his nightly routine. He wishes he could go inside a book he loves, and he is soon transformed into a bunny. As the clock strikes seven o’clock, in the final waking moments of Bunny’s day, objects and characters from his book come to life. His fantastic adventure is filled with kittens and mittens, bears and chairs, a red balloon, a quiet old lady and – of course – the moon. His fears are eased, and he now has a different way of looking at things.

This production of Goodnight Moon is a popular musical adaptation written by former longtime Denver Center Literary Associate Chad Henry, who has created more than 20 stage musicals, most of which have debuted at his hometown Seattle Repertory Theatre. His take on Goodnight Moon, which has been staged across the country, has been described as “part fable, part circus act, part dream ballet, part vaudeville and lots of pandemonium.” It also incorporates elements of Wise’s previous great success, The Runaway Bunny.

“I always thought I was going to write the next Little Shop of Horrors,” Henry said with a laugh. “But no, I wrote the next Mrs. Piggle Wiggle.”

In her research for directing this play, Watrous came across a quote from the eccentric author Margaret Wise Brown and adopted it as the driving challenge for her creative team.

“Here is an audience sensitive to the sheer elements of the English language. Translate their playfulness and serious use of the sheer elements of language into the terms and understandings of a 5-year-old and you have as intelligent an audience in rhythm and sound as the maddest poet’s heart could desire.”

“Margaret Wise Brown wrote this book at a time when others were writing stories for young people that were very far away from them,” Watrous said. “There were these huge fairy tales – which are incredible to ignite the imagination. But Margaret said, ‘What about what is here and now? If I pay attention and see my world as it is, my imagination can grow far beyond those walls.’ I love that she was focused on the here and now.”

As the creative team took turns speaking, Scenic Designer Lisa Orzolek promised unending magic; Costumer Kevin Copenhaver colorful animal costumes; Music Director Robyn Yamada a phenomenal score; Choreographer Grady Soapes dances that will vary in style from tap to soft-shoe to hoedown to Fosse – and much more.

Teachers who bring their classes to Goodnight Moon not only will receive both source books to read in advance of the play, but five lesson plans that match the state’s core curriculum as well. Every student is invited to participate in a no-cost, post-show workshop experience with DCPA Teaching Artists to explore themes and elements of the production further. And if school groups have to get back to their campuses quickly, the DCPA will bring those workshops to their schools.

For the first time, the DCPA’s Theatre for Young Audiences offering has a corporate sponsor: PNC Financial Services.

Goodnight Moon

  • Book, music and lyrics by Chad Henry, adapted from the book by Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd
  • Dates: October 4, 2019, through February 16, 2020
  • Randy Weeks Conservatory Theatre
  • Tailored for pre-kindergarten through second-grade audiences
  • There will be sensory-friendly performance on October 6
  • Weekday student performances will be $10 and weekend performances will be $16-$20 (Scholarships will be available for student groups)
  • Tickets: Call 303-839-4100 or

Photo gallery: The opening rehearsal

Goodnight Moon. DCPA Education. Photo by John Moore.(1)

Director Allison Watrous addresses the crowd gathered for the first rehearsal of ‘Goodnight Moon.’ Photo by John Moore

Click here to see our full photo gallery

Here is the all-local cast:

  • Rakeem Lawrence (Bite Size: Toxoplasmosis, DCPA Off-Center) as Bunny
  • Marco Robinson (Xanadu, DCPA Cabaret; A Christmas Carol, DCPA Theatre Company) as Dog/Tooth Fairy/Bear
  • Susannah McLeod (Sunday in the Park with George, Arvada Center) as Mouse/Cow/Bear
  • Mercedes Perez (Life is a Dream, The Winter’s Tale and A Christmas Carol, DCPA Theatre Company) as Old Lady/Dish/Bear
  • Maggie Tisdale (Sister Act the Musical and Junie B. Jones, Arvada Center) as Understudy
  • Sean Scrutchins (A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Henry V, Colorado Shakespeare Festival) as Understudy

The creative team:

  • Allison Watrous, (Director, DCPA Education’s Corduroy, The Snowy Day and Other Stories)
  • Lisa Orzolek (Scenic Designer, Upcoming: DCPA’s A Doll’s House)
  • Kevin Copenhaver (Costume Designer, Upcoming: DCPA’s Twelfth Night)
  • Charles MacLeod (Lighting Designer, DCPA’s Sweat)
  • Jason Ducat (Sound Designer, DCPA Education’s Corduroy)
  • Grady Soapes, CSA (Casting and Choreography, DCPA’s Anna Karenina)
  • Robyn Yamada (Music Direction, DCPA Education’s The Snowy Day and Other Stories by Ezra Jack Keats)
  • Rachel Ducat (Stage Manager, DCPA Education’s The Snowy Day and Other Stories by Ezra Jack Keats)
  • Rick Mireles (Assistant Stage Manager)

More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

Video bonus: Take a look back at last year’s Corduroy

Video by John Moore and David Lenk.