It’s A Poultry Tale going back centuries, when Hans Christian Andersen wrote the immortal story of The Ugly Duckling. Now the ugly duck’s the subject of an engaging musical filled with great songs and humor, and the Broadway Kids of San Diego are bringing it to life at the Garfield Theatre in La Jolla’s Jewish Community Center. A huge production for 15-year-old Broadway Kids founder Alice Cash to direct. To add a little more pressure, an unexpectedly huge crowd filed into the large theatre on opening night. By the end of the evening, it was clear all the challenges were met. And then some.

The cast features a female Ugly Duckling instead of the usual male, with Victoria Tecca as the tall, awkward, nerdy duckling who, in a nice touch, walks around pigeon-toed, eventually looking remarkably regal as a swan. Her mother Ida is played by Zoe Katz who truly has a feel for the potential humor in this role, laying down the law in the household with some hilariously hormonal tongue-lashing on her henpecked husband Drake (Matthew Maretz as the lazy husband who’s a bit embarrassed by his extraordinary daughter). Ida also has her wings full with her four other ducklings who clearly delight in picking on their bizarre sister.

The only one meaner to poor Ugly is the bad Cat. The slinky Gabriella Espinal is a devilish feline who uses body language, expressions, and voice to create a rich personality for the Cat – eager to eat and eager to play with her food before she eats it, but not so eager when Ugly insists on doing a cutesy dance that is unbefitting of her cool persona.

Elsewhere, Jacob Sampson had the difficult role of The Bull Frog – a character designed to force you to laugh – and Jacob made us laugh naturally with his easy, genuine sense of humor. Lauragrace Barnes plays Grace, the queen of the barnyard with a sing-songy voice that works well, while Austin Klich and Marissa Bing lead us on a memorable Wild Goose Chase.

The costumes (Guyanna Bedington and Alejandra Jimenez) consist mostly of suits and dresses that do a nice job of matching the animals and their personalities. Besides the impressiveness of organizing such a huge production in only her second show, Director Alice Cash again throws in some creative touches. She uses frog umbrellas for the dance numbers with The Bull Frog and white umbrellas for the snowfall that threatens Ugly’s life, accentuated with the ensemble wearing sort of spooky white masks that look good, although they sort of muffle the voices. Then we get taken on the great Wild Goose Chase scene as airline stewardesses stand along the aisles delivering safety instructions and passing out bags of peanuts.

Performed August 3 and 4, 2006.

Rob Hopper
National Youth Theatre

~ Cast ~

Ugly: Victoria Tecca
Ida: Zoe Katz
Drake: Matthew Maretz
Beaky: Janelle Wen
Fluff: Melanie Farfel
Billy: Kristin Knox
Downy: Halle Hoffman
Maureen: Catherine Miller
The Cat: Gabriella Espinal
The Turkey: Cameron Elmore
Henrietta: Meagan Crumpley
Greylag: Austin Klich
Dot: Marissa Bing
Barnacles: Alyssa Edzant
Snowy: Michael Edzant
Pinkfoot: Becca Jacobs
Grace: Lauragrace Barnes
The Bull Frog: Jacob Sampson
Penny: Cameron Elmore
Mother Swan: Miriam Neigus
Bewick: Keegan J. Porter
Jay Bird: Austin Klich
Froglet Soloist: Torrey Mercer
Farmer's Voice: Grace Condon
Boy's Voice: Keegan Porter
Lauragrace Barnes
Marissa Bing
Alexandra Chenelle
Grace Condon
Meagan Crumpley
Chloe DeMelo
Cameron Elmore
Alyssa Edzant
Michael Edzant
Mari Hoffman
Becca Jacobs
Austin Klich
Torrey Mercer
Miriam Neigus
Malone Peed
Keegan J. Porter

Director: Alice Cash
Choreographer: Charlotte Wen
Set Designer: Alice Cash
Costumes: Guyanna Bedington and Alejandra Jimenez
Stage Manager: Jake Kelsoe


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