A door presents itself. You enter. Suddenly you're immersed in a warped version of reality.
That's what happens to 9-year-old Coraline ,the heroine of Neil Gaiman's novel of the same name when she unlocks a door in her creaky new house. And that's what happens to audiences that venture into Coraline the musical by David Greenspan (book) and Stephin Merritt (music and lyrics) now at SF Playhouse.
This looks like a children's musical, but there's a twist. Things are pretty creepy in this twisted world. And it sort of sounds like a musical, though this is about as far away from Rodgers and Hammerstein as you can get and still be in a theater.
SF Playhouse's Coraline looks just right. The black-and-white set (by director Bill English and Matt Vuolo) looks like a storybook haunted house, and when Coraline slips through that locked door and enters an alternate reality, Michael Osch's lights kick into blacklight gear, with fluorescent colors cracking the darkness. The same is true of Valera Coble's costumes – shades of black, white and gray give way to crispy fluorescents once Coraline encounters the mirror-image "others" on the other side of the door. Oh, and the others also come equipped with button eyes – a truly creepy feature.