The Ugly Duckling - Theatre Review

By Jen Brown

Heather Keller McCarthy, Kathy Garrick,
Anthony Grupposo and Kristin Towers Rowles
Photo by Dina Morrone
As per usual, Storybook Theatre served up the sweetest of shows with the strongest of messages - "Even though you're different, you are still family!" It's an important message and this lovely bunch of top-notch players fired the message home at every opportunity.

The tale began with an unnamed giant-sized dog, bounding down through the auditorium. When he clambered onstage and declared he was a "Collector of Ducks," we weren't worried. The affable performance by Anthony Grupposo ensured us we had nothing to be worried about; so enamored were we with this hound-dog's cuddly antics, that by the time he asked the young members of the audience to think of a name for him, my youngest granddaughter had no hesitation in shouting out "Jeff!" (Which suited him rather well, I thought.)

Next came clucking Mama Duck (Kathy Garrick) with daughter, Rosie, (Laura Wolfe), whom I believe was already a little jealous of her sibling-duckling to come. These two made a delightful duo, bouncing off each other in splendid fashion, as all good Moms and daughters do. There was fun to be had throughout their repartee with quips like "Twinkle, Twinkle little Egg," "The Young and the Duckless" and "Put it on my Bill."

When Mama Duck made her exit to go do the shopping, big sister Rosie covered the large egg with a brightly colored quilt and left children from the audience to duck-sit! These lucky few, bewildered at first, got the surprise of their lives when the Ugly Duckling itself cracked its way into the world. This little duck who was different, played superbly by young actress, Makayla Rowles, positively charmed its way into the hearts of two young theater goers and in particular, my granddaughters, Stella and Cynthia. With enchanting voice and skillful dance moves, Miss Rowles' strong, yet innocent portrayal captured their imagination.

One of the many highlights of the show and indeed a very fitting touch was when family members were invited onstage to talk about how different they were from each other. Brothers announced their sisters were girls! "Her hair is curly and mine is straight!" - "He has a missing tooth!" The comments from the youngsters came thick and fast and were all embracing. The emphasis all the while, on how boring life would be if we were all the same and the fantastic recognition of how there is room for every one of us.

Toward the end of the show, my heart literally melted when the not so ugly duckling danced to the Swan Lake Overture. To watch a lovely young girl dance so exquisitely in a pair of sneakers brought a lump to my throat. It also prompted a look of pride from Mama Duck to me, as we both acknowledged the poignancy of the moment. No surprise then, that this little lady's Great-Great-Grandmother was, Kathryn Grayson, the huge star of MGM musicals in the 40s. I believe this to be no Swan Song for Makayla Rowles, but rather the beginning of a very promising career.

The Set Design (Grupposo) was simple and effective, lending well to the action onstage. Pretty trees and flowers and a nicely placed seat made certain the Ugly Duckling's entrance would be an impressive one. The Music and Lyrics (Adryan Russ) suited the mood of the show, with songs like "Gotta Find Me a Duck" and "Quack, Quack, Quack." The wistful "Where do I Belong?" and "I Just Can't Quack" added a certain amount of reflection.

Producer Barbara Mallory and writer, her husband, Lloyd J. Schwartz put the production together well and made it the perfect length of time to expect young children to sit, behold and enjoy. A well-placed intermission (just half an hour in!) with free cookies and juice is the icing on the cake, if you'll pardon the pun! Hats off to all cast and crew, including David P. Johnson, who stage managed this heart-warming show.

Storybook Theatre at Theatre West excels in presenting top class theater for children and "The Ugly Duckling" is no exception. The show has been extended through to April 28 - be sure not to miss this fun-filled family afternoon!

Posted By Discover Hollywood on January 29, 2018 02:29 pm | Permalink