This delightful musical at the New Victory Theater will please both children and adults.
At the show's center is Serena (the winning and powerhouse vocalist Jennie Greenberry), who's not nearly as comely as her mother Mrs. Mallard (Julie Shaw) or sisters (played by Emily Shackelford and Katie Karel) and who has dreams of becoming a superstar singer.
When she's passed over for a talent/beauty contest arranged by the King (Kip Niven) and his vain son Drake (imbued with considerable charm by Seth Golay), she makes her way to New Duck City, where she does attain her goals and realizes her true swan-like beauty, thanks not to a fairy godmother, but rather through the efforts of the talent agent Wolf (a likeably oily turn from Tim Scott) and Goostella (also played by Shaw), a modeling exec, who, cleverly, seems to be modeled on Kay Thompson in her Funny Face days.
Book writers Bill Russell and Jeffrey Hatcher throw a few more fairy tale references into the mix (Chicken Little and Little Red Riding Hood, for instance) as Serena learns some important lessons about the power of love (and the danger of carnivores).Along the way, they spice things up for the adults with hefty doses of pop cultural references (such as Jim Croce's "Bad Bad Leroy Brown" and Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma!) and some gently risqué humor. At one point, Drake condescendingly says to Wolf, "...at least I don't lick myself!!" To which Wolf replies, "You would if you could!"
As the musical wends its 75-minute way, some adults may wonder if some of the twists and turns that the plot takes -- Wolf is not nearly as benevolent as he seems and there comes a point in which the King is no longer able to rule -- are too much for the youngest of audience members. But most kids will easily catch on to all of the details in this intricately layered tale.
The show's score is joyful and toe-tappingly tuneful, with co-book writer Russell's lyrics ably fitting Henry Krieger's richly diverse melodies, which draw upon Broadway traditions, gospel, early rock and roll, and R&B, and have been carefully orchestrated for a four piece band by Harold Wheeler.
Director Jeff Church keeps the action moving swiftly and cleanly, thanks in no small part to scenic designer Ryan J. Zirngibl's handsome backdrops and set pieces that seem to be in constant motion, and Georgianna Buchanan's eye-poppingly colorfuul costumes, which are exceptionally playful and marvelously witty.