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Wednesday, December 2,2009

’Musicians’ sings

Children’s show hits mostly right notes

by Paul Wozniak
It’s time for another round of children’s musical storytelling at Lansing’s Riverwalk Theatre, and the current offering is truly a classic. “The Bremen Town Musicians,” by Stan Gill, fulfills all of the standard children’s show prerequisites, from a formulaic plot with a moral compass, parentaimed jokes and a frenzied, full-cast chase scene through the theater. The songs are not Billboard standards, but they are solid, simple and even adaptable to the limited vocal ranges of particular cast members. The show also serves as a suitable starter for first-time director Ann Glenn.

Set in olden times, “Bremen Town” introduces four unlikely friends: a donkey, a dog, a cat and a rooster who have all been disowned by their dimwitted masters. Bremen 2 is supposedly the Los Angeles 11/25 of & its 12/2 time, a place where performing artists go to make a name, and fortune, for themselves. None of the animals seemed very content in their former occupations, so a musical pilgrimage is seen as a welcome opportunity.


Will Cruitt, as the scarecrow and narrator, speaks and sings as well as one would expect from a standard scarecrow, but his blasé delivery never engages the younger audience members.


Conversely, Carrie Glazier’s portrayal of the emotionally indifferent donkey is a comic delight. Her nasal delivery cuts through Riverwalk’s muddy acoustics, and her exasperated “Hee-haw” immediately created mimics in Saturday’s audience.


As the fedoraclad hound dog, Bob Murrell channels his inner Jimmy Durante in song and speech. While his bluesy featured number would probably work better if he kept the gruffness in his voice more consistent, Murrell certainly knows how to sell the audience and play to children.


Maria George slinks in her black body suit as the cat, but her voice lacks the support to push her song from sassy to sultry.


The most visually memorable performance comes from Mark Mandenberg, as the rooster. Mandenberg’s costume appears as the most comically complete, and his chicken walk more than makes up for his lack of musical ear.


Playing the villains are A.S. Freeman, Jayke Pell, Gretchen Baker and Sarah Hauck. Each actor is energetic and appropriately unlikable, so it’s a shame so many of their lines get lost in echo-y acoustics.


Music director Edric Haleen jells wonderfully with the cast on his backstage keyboard, and Joe Dickson’s lighting, Jay McCusker set and Tony Sump’s costumes all blend beautifully.


Overall, what the “The Bremen Town Musicians” lacks in sparkle, it makes up for in script and spirit, making for a lively, campy excursion for parents and children.



‘The Bremen Town Musicians’


By
Stan Gill Through Dec. 4 7 p.m. Friday 2 & 4:30 p.m. Saturday 2
p.m. Sunday Riverwalk Theatre, 228 Museum Drive, Lansing $5/$7 (517)
482-5700 www.riverwalktheatre.com



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