Friday night saw the world premiere of Charles Lupia’s musical adaptation of the Ugly Duckling. With cast members ranging from elementary school actors, college students, and adult professional actors, the hall at St. James Church was filled with light and life! Tenor Daniel Fields anchored the cast as D.L. (“Duck Lame,” aka the Ugly Duckling), his wonderful voice matched by his acting ability. With no microphones, and a bit of an acoustic sound-trap at the stage, the strong voices of the entire cast were evident.
Gerard Moses from Studio 24 was the stage director, and clearly loved every minute of the play. He allowed the “wild ducks” (complete with leather jackets, sunglasses and cock-eyed bills) to really play up the humor in their parts. Yet he still showed the tender side of the story, as Samantha Swan struggled to show that her inner beauty was as great as her outer beauty. And after the curtain calls he was on hand to cheer his young cast, giving hugs and encouragement to each and every one.
All in all, I think this is a musical with some real potential. As with any premiere, this was an opportunity to see what worked, and what didn’t. While the play could stand as it is, personally I thought there were one or two scenes that were out of place, and could stand to be either re-written or eliminated. Young singing voices are also a challenge, as most of these youngsters don’t have the consistent strength for a musically broad-ranging part. Occasionally we missed some of the lyrics, as the kids just couldn’t project where the parts were written.
But Lupia also showed real skill in his libretto and his musicality with the part of DL, the wild ducks, the entrance of the swans, and, in fact, most of the play. I would hope that children’s theater companies discover this work and find room for it on their schedule. And if you have the chance, I highly recommend taking the family to see it.