Feisty cows, a hen and a duck upset by working conditions on the farm face a language barrier in "Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type," a real charmer of a children's musical that opened Friday at the Rose.
Then the duck (Amanda Waldron) discovers an old typewriter in Farmer Brown's barn. Soon the cows (Lauren Krupski, Sue Gillespie Booton) are typing, the hen (Sara Kaus) is a little bit chicken about the upheaval, and the duck becomes the go-between in labor negotiations over a drafty barn.
Farmer Brown (Aaron Mann) can't quite believe his ears — or his eyes.
Based on Doreen Cronin's award-winning children's book, "Click, Clack, Moo" owes a lot to director Kevin Ehrhart's spot-on staging and pacing, plus a clever script and lyrics by James E. Grote and music by George Howe.
The opening song sounds like 1950s doo-wop girl-group harmonies. Later numbers mix it up with a ballad about how electric blankets would feel like home, a militant march with a Revolutionary War sound, a peppy tap-dance number and a more bluesy song in which the duck bemoans her small, round, lonely pond.
Mann makes a fine Farmer Brown, and his baritone voice is strong and on key.
But this show really belongs to the female menagerie. The vocal blend, in three- and four-part harmonies, is a real treat. Kudos to musical director Jerry Brabec, as well as to choreographer Booton for lively dance steps.
The characterizations are a cut above, too. Kaus is a hoot as she gets into character with pecking head movement, ruffled wings and a vocal trick that blends clucking and talking.
Waldron is equally fun with her duck walk, loud deadpan quacking and clearly delivered narration. The duck's "magical translator" remote control lets us know what all those moos and quacks and clucks really mean. It can also fast-forward, reverse or pause the action, which kids loved.
As for the cows, Lauren Krupski is hilarious as the more militant cow, who gets her rebellious ideas from reading Orwell's "Animal Farm." Booton is the more sensible, measured cow who doesn't want to punish or overthrow Farmer Brown, just get him to make the barn a little warmer.
A Thursday preview audience of kids from Liberty Elementary especially liked it when they got to voice their own votes — in loud moos, quacks and clucks — on what the animals should do.
Christopher DePriest's scenic design features a two-story barn stuffed with Ronald Wells Jr.'s props. A rail fence, the entrance to Farmer Brown's house and the duck pond add visual interest as well.
Costumer Sherri Geerdes imaginatively puts the animals in hoop skirts and fancy wigs. Children quickly and readily accepted the ruffled skirts, elaborate headgear and shoes covered by duck spats and cow hooves.
"Click, Clack, Moo" may be aimed at kids in single-digit ages, but parents and grandparents will have more than the usual fun watching — and listening to — this musical spate of unrest down on the farm.
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