Make time for “Make Way for Ducklings,” Adventure Theatre & ATMTC Academy’s digital preview of its new musical, based on the classic children’s book and scheduled to debut as part of the 2020/21 season. The theatre academy’s virtual script-reading of the musical, adapted from Robert McCloskey’s charming tale, foregrounds fun and laughs for parents and children.
Artistic Director Chil Kong introduces the “work in progress,” presented streaming, with all the actors participating individually via Zoom. It’s a technical as much as an artistic feat, the timing and direction all the more impressive given that it was the first time the entire creative team had experienced the show together, according to Kong’s preface.
Sandra Eskin and Michael J. Bobbitt’s adaptation of the book into a musical, scheduled to make its world premiere as part of the Theatre’s 2020/21 season, expands the well-known story of Mr. and Mrs. Mallard, two ducks trying to find a home for their new ducklings in the wilds of Boston. Shayla Lowe and Dylan Fleming are wonderful as the expecting parents, who become increasingly frustrated in their journey to find the perfect nest for their family. Actors use puppet avatars that feature images of their characters, based on McCloskey’s original sepia illustrations, which shake and fidget as the parents’ plans for nesting are continually thwarted, initially by an overly scrupulous policeman, Officer Michael (Jared Graham, very good).
The humorous story is pitched towards children and parents, including some very punny jokes (about “fowl weather,” for example) for both audiences, and some very realistic parenting worries that adults will take to heart; “If I take a second job and eat every other day, we can make this work,” a worried Mr. Mallard says, upon hearing how many ducklings are on the way.
The theatre academy’s virtual script-reading of the new musical, adapted from of Robert McCloskey’s charming tale, foregrounds fun and laughs for parents and children.
Dialogue is intercut with short, appealing musical interludes that are pre-recorded and overlaid on top of graphic illustrations of the action, most taken from the original storybook (music and lyrics courtesy of William Yanesh). The production uses Zoom’s Brady-bunch style tiling to nice effect once the four ducklings are hatched, and the Mallards’ parenting of the new family are some of the most enjoyable scenes of the presentation.
The young supporting cast (Isabel Auerswald, Sophia Bordenick, Victoria Marshall, and Bridget Trebon) does a great job portraying the distinct personalities of each duckling, and Jared Graham nicely portrays a revolving cast of characters, all amusingly named Michael. These characters shepherd and guide the little family, as they try to decide between risking the unknown to find a new home, or returning to safety and familiarity.
The presentation is heartwarming, not just because of the story’s soft landing, but as a reminder of what theatre can do, which is constantly adapt and change, even and especially during times of crisis. I’ll look forward to seeing the show staged, sometime soon.
Running Time: A little over an hour.
“Make Way for Ducklings” is available to stream on Adventure Theatre’s website.