Many people of my generation grew up reading Deborah & James Howe's Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery. We raptly watched and rewatched the 1982 animated ABC Weekend Special titled Bunnicula: The Vampire Rabbit and ignored all the deviations from the novel's plot. Needless to say, many were excited earlier in 2013, when DR2 Kids Theatre and its partnership with Theatreworks USA brought the beloved vampire bunny rabbit to Off-Broadway in a critically lauded new musical entitled Bunnicula: A Rabbit Tale of Musical Mystery, with a book by Charles Busch, Music by Sam Davis, and Lyrics by Mark Waldrup. The musical ran at the DR2 Theatre from February 9 to April 14, and its cast album was released yesterday.
The musical, like the novel, is told from the point of view of Harold, the Monroe family's loyal dog. One dark and stormy night, the family comes home with a mysterious and sharp-fanged rabbit they found at a screening of Dracula. Soon, the vegetables in the household start turning white, and the rabbit's peculiar habits begin to puzzle the entire Monroe family, including Harold and their pet cat Chester.
Davis' score, with orchestrations by Greg Pliska, emulates the music from the family-friendly horror classic Michael Jackson's "Thriller" for its opening number and the finale and samples Carl Orff's "O Fortuna" in "Lepus in Probus Malum." This reminiscent and wholly familiar soundscape is both eery and engaging. The remainder of Davis' score reflects the poppy joviality of stereotypical Broadway musicals.
Throughout the entire album, Waldrup incorporates healthy doses of humor that will appeal to youngsters in his lyrics by using jokes about Harold's fart and Chester urinating outside of his litter box.
Music direction by James Cunningham is lighthearted and keeps the songs accessible for young listeners. Parents may not walk around singing these songs after listening to the album, but the young people in their lives undoubtedly will.
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As Harold, Robert Anthony Jones is charismatic and charming. His vocals are sweet and amiable, making numbers like "My Best Friend," "Stand By Your Family," and "The Nick of Time" perfectly adorable and memorable.
Prescott Seymour is affable and lively as Chester. His beguiling and light vocals are energetic and full of gusto. He makes numbers like "My Best Friend," "Stand By Your Family," and "Lepus in Probus Malum" lively and wholly amusing.
The other four cast members do solid work as the Monroes and their other characters. A true standout performance is offered by Ashley Campana and Erin Maguire, who are both fantastic, as the stray cats Miss Demeanor and Felony on the jazzy and spirited track "The Danger Zone."
Bunnicula (Original Off-Broadway Cast Recording) is a blithe, spunky recording. It will definitely play better for those who saw the show or are already familiar with the story. Digital copies can be purchased from iTunes and Amazon. Physical copies are available elsewhere music is sold.