According to actress Anissa Hartline, “Goodnight Moon” is one of her son’s favorite books. Hartline said 20-month-old Cameron also loves playing with the “Goodnight Moon” app on her iPad.
“When you touch the screen, different objects pop up ... the kittens meow,” Hartline said. “It’s kind of like the world Roberta has created.”
Roberta Gasbarre is the educational theater guru and director of “Goodnight Moon,” opening the 2013-2014 season at Adventure Theatre MTC on Friday. The musical is based on the beloved book by Margaret Wise Brown and adapted for the stage by Chad Henry. Hartline will play the role of the old lady whispering “hush,” or the grandmother in Gasbarre’s version.
Gasbarre has more than 35 years of experience in educational theater, including 13 years as the director of Discovery Theater, the Smithsonian’s Theatre for Young Audiences. She returns to Adventure Theatre MTC after directing “The Red Balloon,” based on another children’s classic, in 2010.
“‘Goodnight Moon’ is packed with possibility,” Gasbarre said. “The book ‘Goodnight Moon’ [is a] place you can live and with ideas you can play ... dances you can dance and ultimately a place you can close your eyes and dream about.”
For those wondering how the beloved rhyming bedtime story could possibly translate into a 45-minute stage production, you’re not alone.
“I kind of thought, how would they ever do that?” Hartline said.
“I was surprised that they were able to make a big exciting musical based on a book about putting kids to bed,” added Maya Brettell.
Brettell plays several characters in “Goodnight Moon,” though her main role is the mischievous mouse who keeps the little bunny (Jake Foster) awake.
Brettell and Foster, both 15, are two of the youngest members of a cast consisting of teens, adults and puppets.
“I personally have been involved with puppets for many, many years,” Gasbarre said. “For me, they’re [a child’s] expression and allow them to become other people.”
While Gasbarre describes “Goodnight Moon,” the book as “ ... a lullaby in verse ...” she said “Goodnight Moon” the show isn’t exactly a bedtime story.
“This show of magic and fun is really the true story behind ‘Goodnight Moon,’” Gasbarre said. “We know that children don’t eat their dinner and then start yawning and close their eyes and go to sleep. There are lots of other things people do before they go to sleep.”
Brettell added that in addition to typical bedtime routines, the musical also explores some recognizable markers of childhood.
“Songs stem from things that we all experience as kids,” she said. “Losing teeth or being amused by the moon ... fairy tales ... things like the ‘Three Little Bears’ are represented in the show.”
Ultimately, Gasbarre said she hopes “Goodnight Moon” the musical is an homage to a book that is treasured by countless generations; from Foster, who said a copy of the story was the first gift he ever received, and Brettell, who recalls her parents reading it to her, to a whole new generation of children like Hartline’s son experiencing the story for the first time.
“For the people who really know and love the book, it will be an exploration of the possibilities between the pages,” Gasbarre said.
And for those experiencing the “lullaby in verse” for the very first time, the director said the musical serves as a “delightful doorway.”
“They can go home to their rooms and look at their stuff and make their connections to ‘Goodnight Moon,’” Gasbarre said. “Goodnight my teddy bear, goodnight my lamp, goodnight my moon outside my window.”