By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
It was during the perils of this journey that Max's schpillkas factor was running on overdrive. He squirmed in his seat as Ugly sought shelter in the house of Lowbutt (a domesticated hen played by Heather Willingham) and a highbrow cat (Arianna Movassagh). This plot digression, although entertaining and humorous for the adults, made Max unwilling to suspend his disbelief and more than willing to sit in my lap. Thank goodness for the bullfrog number a few scenes later, which pulled Max back into the action. Brad Jackson (who also played Drake) scored brilliantly with his Borscht Belt bullfrog reminiscent of Shecky Green (coughing: "Hey, I got a human in my throat."). He is joined by the rest of the cast in a rousing music-hall number that encourages Ugly to believe that "out there somewhere, someone's going to love you--warts and all."
Ugly has already met that someone--actually two someones--Momma Ida, who has made chase ever since she learned Ugly was lost, and Penny (Amy Askins), a female swan who makes a curiously similar-sounding honk. Of course, Cat is also in hot pursuit, but is unable to satisfy his culinary taste before Ugly gets morphed into a graceful albeit inedible swan.
Perhaps it's the challenge of kid theater to keep the parents entertained as well; and clever dialogue targeted just over the heads of most children generally kept the old folks engaged. Ultimately it's a question of pacing for director Schaeffer, who managed to narrowly escape sagging attention spans with some frozen theatrical spectacle, several heartrending ballads and plenty of show tunes.
Because there are only a few performances left, I would suggest parents run not waddle to get tickets. Of course, my son had the last word on this when he left the theater, yelling "HONK!"