'Click, Clack, Moo'

Show boasts udderly (sorry) charming turns from a cast that has as much fun as its audience.

The world finally has the musical about computer-literate livestock it deserves — Brad Alexander, Kevin Del Aguila and Billy Aronson’s tyke-tastic tuner, “Click, Clack, Moo,” based on the Caldecott-winning kids’ book. Hourlong Theaterworks USA show boasts adroit direction by “Urinetown” helmer John Rando and udderly charming turns from a cast that is having at least as much fun as its audience. Latter group is mostly made up of classroom field trips and relieved tot-toting parents checking out free midday perfs. Enhancement money from “Click, Clack” publisher Simon & Schuster has given the crackerjack design team plenty of room to breathe.

Like most kids’ shows, “Click, Clack” has to work hard for the approval of a fidgety crowd, mining the source material for as much fun stagecraft as will fit into the running time and trading almost exclusively in broad comedy. Rando is a godsend in this respect, choreographing running gags and mild slapstick into the story of three cows who decide that picketing with laser-printed signage is the best way to get blankets for their too-cold barn.

Notable gags include an expanse of about four feet of puppetry between the farmhouse and the barn, used to describe the long distance every time a character needs to run between the two locations (a guy in a duck suit turns into a duck puppet for about 10 seconds, for example). This bit gets funnier with each use and contributes to the Looney Tunes-live aesthetic that permeates the whole show.

Designer Beowulf Boritt has clearly gotten into the spirit of things, re-creating Betsy Lewin’s lovely thick-line drawings in set form, meshing perfectly with Lora LaVon’s inventive costumes. Much of LaVon’s handiwork uses standard features of everyday clothing to approximate animal parts, like the bright orange bill on the Duck’s cap.

Concerted efforts pay off big in aud attention. With the actors totally committed to this nutty world, surprisingly few outbursts puncture the atmosphere (although the occasional exasperated adult can be heard hissing “You just went!”) — a major accomplishment for a  show with an age recommendation of 4 and up.

Piece has plenty to amuse adults, too, especially with the director playing up the politicking between the recalcitrant farmer and his recently unionized pets. Book uses the striking barnyard to teach kids compromise, but with a tweak tweak here and a tweak tweak there, old John Rando gives it a little subversive edge, like a board-book version of “Das Kapital,” or maybe “Animal Farm Lite.”

Wendy Seyb’s choreography quotes everything up to and including “West Side Story” and is mostly about big, fun movements (and eventual brawling, when the rival chickens’ union enters the scene). Alexander and Del Aguila’s music and lyrics are a lot of fun, especially a number about how comfortable feathers are (“Get Down”), which DeMond B. Nason knocks out of the park.

Nason’s perf is funny, as is Michael Thomas Holmes’ extremely masculine dairy cow. Material could even stand to be milked for a little longer duration — Holmes, Kristy Cates and Gretchen Bieber make a terrific comedy trio and kids seemed to be enjoying themselves right up through the curtain call at the perf reviewed. In the end, it’s the cast and crew‘s commitment that keeps disbelief at bay, proving what you can do when you take the bull by the horns.

Click, Clack, Moo

Lucille Lortel Theater; 299 seats; free

Production

A Theaterworks USA presentation of a musical in one act with music by Brad Alexander, lyrics by Kevin Del Aguila, book by Billy Aronson, adapted from the book "Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type," by Doreen Cronin with illustrations by Betsy Lewin. Directed by John Rando. Musical direction, Justin Hatchimonji. Choreography, Wendy Seyb.

Creative

Set, Beowulf Boritt; costumes, Lora LaVon; lighting, Matthew Richards; sound, Jeremy Wilson; vocal arrangements, Hatchimonji; orchestrations, Brad Alexander; production stage manager, Carly J. Price. Opened July 28, 2009. Reviewed July 24. Running time: 1 HOUR.

Cast

Farmer Brown, Chicken - Drew McVety Darlene - Gretchen Bieber Loretta - Michael Thomas Holmes Maddie - Kristy Cates Duck, Chicken - DeMond B. Nason Jenny, Chicken - Sarah Katherine Gee
Musical Numbers: "The Farm of Farmer Brown," "Cold," "Get Down," "Cows Type," "Mad Cows," "Loretta's Anthem," "Boiled Chickens," "Your Way or the Highway," "Negotiation," "The Farm of Farmer Brown" (reprise).

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