All over the program I used to take notes for this review, I kept using the word "cute," and in all its best senses, that's exactly the word to describe Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type.
This last show in the Lexington Children's Theatre's season is James E. Grote and George Howe's adorable musical adaptation of Doreen Cronin's popular children's book, brought vividly to life by the imaginative stage direction of Larry Snipes and the able musical direction of Nancy H. Ward.
The play advances a worthy message of working together and being willing to compromise to achieve common goals. In their efforts to get Farmer Brown (Michael J. Whitten) to provide warmth in the drafty old barn, the barnyard animals first try talking to him, but he can't understand what they mean by "moo," "cluck" and "quack," so they start typing him notes with an old typewriter they have found in the barn. Pretty soon, the impasse escalates into a milk-and-egg strike by the animals.
The story is narrated by the Duck, played with goofy charm by the talented Matt Bass. Duck wields a remote control that allows him to stop action to make commentary or explanation, resulting in some hilarious stage pictures with the Cows (Bradford H. Forehand and Kat Myers) and Hen (the entertaining Carly Crawford) frozen in mid-movement. The remote control also lets Duck rewind and fast-forward, which showcases the cast's physical comedy skills, particularly Whitten's energetic acrobatics.
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The tuneful light-pop songs should appeal to grown-ups and kids alike, and choreographer Amie E. Dunn Kisling has done an effective job staging the numbers. The backup vocals and dancing in Forehand's big solo, An Electric Blanket Feels Like Home, are the cutest thing in the whole show, and the white-gloved hands of the actors suggesting seagulls in the choreography of Duck's ballad Oceans, Rivers and Waterfalls are a lovely touch. The singing is generally good, especially Bass's, although Whitten delivers a few notes that Randy Jackson on American Idol would have called "pitchy." Whitten more than makes up for his singing lapses, however, with the cartoonish creeping, crouching, and pratfalling in his funny performance.
I also found Crawford's Hen to be a hilarious, engaging character. It's wonderful to see Lexington Children's Theatre fostering the skills of such promising young entertainers.
The consistently high production values of this theater company continue to impress. The costumes by Jennifer Caprio evoke Betsy Lewin's illustrations for the children's book while adding amusing touches of personification and characterization to the animals. (Duck's costume cracked me up — again, so cute!) The set by Jerome L. Wills suggests the various locales of the barn, the farmhouse and the duck pond with bucolic flair against a beautifully rendered panoramic country scene as a backdrop, all effectively lit by Kenneth Foster.
I appreciate the way this production handles the necessary evil of a curtain speech. It was much less annoying than usual to hear the ubiquitous announcements about the upcoming season, cell phones and so forth delivered in character by Farmer Brown, aided by the animal characters coming onto the stage, and then transitioning seamlessly into the play itself.
This was just another classy detail indicative of the high-quality arts enterprise that is Lexington Children's Theatre. As for this show, Click Clack Moo sets a new standard for "cute" in this region, with plenty for children and adults alike to enjoy.