BWW Reviews: The Imaginary Theatre Company's Cute Production of CHANTICLEER!
The basic story of Chanticleer can supposedly be traced back to Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, and a particular story titled "The Nun's Priest's Tale", but you'd be hard pressed to find any resemblance between that work and most adaptations which focus instead on the conflict between a sly fox and an vain rooster. Hollywood even took a stab at the material with the 1991 animated film Rock- A-Doodle, an adaptation of the comedic play Chantecler by Edmond Rostand, which featured Glen Campbell's voice in the lead role. Playwright and composer Brian Hohlfeld has come up with his own spin on the idea with Chanticleer!, a country flavored musical version that's perfectly suited for young people. The Imaginary Theatre Company has assembled a cute and funny production of this charming classic, and happily I was able to catch a performance this past weekend (March 19, 2011) with my wife and son in tow.
Chanticleer the rooster is so full of himself that he thinks the sun rises because of his regular morning crows. His job is to guard the hen house from any unwelcome visitors, and he spends his time training a young cockerel named Scooter in the fine art of swordplay so that he'll be able to take over some day. And one day the goofy owners of the homestead, Fern and Phil, who bear a striking resemblance to either Raggedy Ann and Andy or the Farkel family from Laugh-In, tell Chanticleer that they are going on a trip and need him to watch over The Farm while they're away. Naturally, a crafty fox has been watching all of this play out, and he seizes on the opportunity to undermine Chanticleer's confidence so that he can make a meal out of his charges. His plan works, and Chanticleer leaves The Farm with his head hung low once he sees the sun rise without the benefit of his crow. But, the chickens are able to keep the fox at bay while Scooter tracks him down, and together they square off against the fox in a spirited sword fight.
Lakeetha Blakeney does fine work as Chanticleer, maintaining an air of haughty arrogance until the rooster's confidence is shattered. Jordan Reinwald is also sharp as the fox, outwitting his opponents for the moment, before succumbing to defeat when the tables are eventually turned. Reinwald also appears as a pig who serves up glasses of lemonade to Chanticleer while he's drowning his sorrows. Christian Vieira has fun as the rooster-in-training, Scooter, and doubles up as farmer Phil. Ann Ashby is very good as the fussy hen, Henrietta, who manages to delay the fox's advances with her clever suggestions (Ashby also pulls double duty as farmer Fern).
Kat Singleton's playful direction keeps the action chugging along at a good pace, and there's enough action and song in the script to keep the wee ones captivated for the duration (about 45-50 minutes). Scott Loebl's scenic design maintains the rural atmosphere required with painted backdrops that have a quilt-like look and texture to them. Dorothy Marshall Englis provides the costuming, which clearly delineates each character, human or otherwise. Musical director NeAl Richardson does his usual splendid work, and Brian Peters choreographs the lively sword fights, which my son found especially interesting.
The Imaginary Theatre Company continues their season with Trail of Tears at the Missouri History Museum March 25 - April 3, 2011.