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Reviews for The Ugly Duckling

New York Times - October 1999

by Laurel Graeber

Swan Songs

Claude Monet and Hans Christian Andersen as collaborators? It never happened, at least not until now. Literally Alive Productions has put the two together at the West Side Y.M.C.A. in a musical version of “The Ugly Duckling,” performed against a set that is a lovely reproduction of one of the “Water Lilies” paintings.

Children may not recognize the art, but they will certainly enjoy the show. It begins with an hour-long workshop in which they can dabble in Impressionism themselves, making lily pads, ducks and swans to be tacked to the front of the stage. They also learn some simple routines to perform during the play, when they will be called on to portray growing seeds and birth coaches, of sorts, for the Mother Duck.

Brenda Bell, the author of the adaptation, and Debra Kaye, the composer, have created a fantasy-filled hour that combines classical ballet with songs ranging from blues and gospel to lively show tunes.

The central ballad, “Different Can Be Special,” underscores Andersen’s theme. Just imagine the barnyard as a schoolyard and the mocking animals as neighborhood bullies, and it’s not hard to see why this fable has become a children’s classic.

The adaptation doesn’t neglect the story’s dark side, even including a scene in which the ugly duckling’s friend, a wild duck, is dispatched by a hunter. (Like the demise of Bambi’s mother, it occurs offstage.

The talented cast, directed by Jack Bell, includes Madeline Kelly-Kaspary, Kit Williams, Todd Eric Hawkins and Ms. Bell as the title character. Together they prove that hope is indeed the thing with feathers.

Big Apple Parent - December 1999

by Judy Antell

Interactive musical theatre is brought to a new dimension by Literally Alive.

This troupe, performing “The Ugly Duckling” at the Little Theatre at the West Side Y, gives kids an opportunity to participate in the show, singing along, clapping to hatch an egg, and portraying growing seeds. In the workshop beforehand, kids make swans and other scenery, and are invited to tape their creations to the stage, making them part of the set.

This “Ugly Ducking” incorporates Impressionism, the backdrop is Monet’s “Water Lilies” and the workshop preceding the show includes an art discussion. Hans Christian Andersen serves as the narrator of the performance, which includes plenty of singing and dancing, from classical ballet to a pseudo-tango. While all the performers sing, Kit Williams as “Old Duck” stands out with a big, floor-rattling voice.

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