Monday, October 22, 2012

Duck for President - Oregon Children's Theatre at Newmark Theatre, Portland, OR

"Dream the Dream"

Duck For President, a musical by James E. Grote and George Howe and directed by Kirk Mouser, is now playing at the Newmark Theatre in downtown Portland.  It is presented by Oregon Children’s Theatre, now in its 25th year in operation, and arguably one of the best children’s theatre/schools in the area.  It plays through November 4th.  Check their website www.octc.org for more information.

The play is, I’m sure, not an accidently choice, being this is an election year.  Although the script is somewhat lightweight in the satirical aspects, it is an excellent source for young  people’s exposure to the political workings of our system.  And the youth in the audience were quite animated in their pleasure of this production.

The story concerns Farmer Brown (Joshua Stenseth) who is the leader of the farm and really a pretty fair boss.  But the rest of the animals, especially Duck (well-played by Hogan Fritz), feel that  he is working them too hard.  All they really want to do is play.

So Duck convinces Cow (Haley Ward), Pig (Emily Sahler Beleele) and Hen (Ashlee Waldbauer) that he should run for Farmer, since that is the democratic way of doing things in this country.  He makes promises that life will be easier for them if he is elected.  Any resemblance to current situations in politics is, I’m sure, entirely…intentional.

He discovers that being the boss of a farm is not so easy, but he feels his real calling is to be Governor.  When that becomes a fact, he decides to run for…you guessed it…President.  The conclusion is rather touching and, like Aesop’s fables, may have a moral:  Maybe the  grass is not always greener on the other side.  But, like Dorothy from Kansas, you have to go over the rainbow before you can appreciate what you have at home.  Boy, are we a stubborn breed, or what?!

The music and dance numbers lend themselves very well to the story and the young people are easily up to the challenge.  Mr. Mouser has led this team to a very energetic and enjoyable performance.  And the costumes by Dani Baldwin (OCT’s Education Director) lend well to this production, never overshadowing the actors, but complimenting what they do.

The performances by all are first-rate.  Mr. Stenseth, as the Farmer, plays multiple characters and does them all very well.  And Ms. Beleele, as Pig, has some outstanding moments as the lead in the  song, Hitch Your Wagon to a Star (at least I think that’s the name of  the number, as they’re not listed in the  program).  The band was also exceptional,  although a bit overpowering at times and drowning out the singers.

But the highlight of the show was Haley Ward, as Cow.  Her belting of the number Whatda Think (?) was a showstopper.  Her bio states that she is just beginning her entrance into theatre.  If she lives up to the performing she did in this show, she has a long and prosperous career ahead of her.  Bravo, Haley!

I do recommend this show and their school for young people.  The Youth of this world need artistic outlets like this.  It builds character, confidence and teamwork.  And it exposes one, in a safe environment, to the world of…Imagination, a Land of never-ending possibilities…a Place where one can explore, discover, nurture and grow to one’s full  potential.

“The world is too much with us,” the poet said.  As adults, that may be true.  But in the World of Youth, one can still Dream…and in dreaming, shape who we want to become.  This production is one step in that direction.  I recommend it.  Tell them Dennis sent you.