Seeing an original cast member in a theatrical production is a rare occurrence outside of Broadway.

I saw Michael Crawford do “Phantom” in Los Angeles and Cherry Jones in “Doubt” in Minneapolis. On Saturday afternoon at the Depot, I added the name of Edward Tulane to that short but distinguished list.

Because of the sponsorship of local families and individuals, the charming rabbit doll from the original production of Dwayne Hartford’s adaptation of Kate DiCamillo’s 2006 novel stars in the Playhouse Family Theatre’s captivating production of “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.”

Edward is a china rabbit given to a young girl named Abilene by her grandmother. Edward is loved and cherished but is also extremely vain. Through an escalating series of unfortunate events, he is parted from Abilene and sent on his journey toward its miraculous end.

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The story seems somewhat reminiscent of “The Velveteen Rabbit,” but Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Steadfast Tin Soldier” is a more accurate antecedent.

Director Phillip Fazio added an additional cast member to the spirited ensemble that all play multiple roles.

Stuart Gordon voices Edward’s thoughts that bring the china rabbit alive, while Ria Takhar educates Edward both as grandmother Pellegrina and a 100-year-old doll. Musical accompaniment is provided by Gordon on guitar and Takhar on fiddle.

Haley Methner starts off as Abilene before becoming a dog named Lucy and a very sick little girl named Sarah Ruth. Spencer Peck plays several boisterous characters and was most affective as Bryce, Sarah Ruth’s kind brother. Narrator Mary DuBois serves as the play’s focal point for exposition and explanation.

“Edward Tulane” is going to resonate more with middle school students than elementary students. The story is set during the 1930s, and there are elements that would be at home in “The Grapes of Wrath” that will brush up against the fringe of a younger child’s comprehension.

But the wide array of comic voices employed by the cast to create all the characters will keep the younger kids enthralled while the lessons about love and hope will largely hit home with their older siblings and parents.

After the curtain call, Edward remained on stage sitting atop his trunk, socially distanced from the masked audience.

I realize we might not have been able to get an autograph from him, but a selfie with Edward Tulane sure would have been sweet.

If you go

What: “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane”

Where: Playhouse Family Theatre, 506. W. Michigan St.

When: May 15-16 and 22-23 at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.

Tickets: $17; ages 4-18, $15; ages 3 and younger may sit in an adult’s lap for free.


Lawrance Bernabo is a theater and arts reviewer for the News Tribune.