Little did we know at the start of the show, when the nasally, gangly “Duck” came out to welcome everyone and conduct the barnyard costume parade, that we were sitting in the section headed by “Pig,” who turned out to be our favorite character in the whole show. Whitney Abell, who plays “Pig” in Click Clack Boo! A Tricky Treat at the Orlando Repertory Theatre, quickly led not only our section of the costume parade, but the entire show with her enthusiasm and big pig, larger-than-life personality.
The show itself is delightful, especially for the wee ones, all of whom seemed to enjoy putting their Halloween costumes to use early as they crafted pirate eye patches, cut out jack-o-lanterns from construction paper, and munched on complimentary pizza from Papa John’s in the half hour preceding the show. I could hear cackling not just from “Hen” and “Duck,” two major characters in the show, but from the house, half-filled with little Elsas, witches, firefighters, and transformers, dressed up and ready, as they thoroughly embraced and enjoyed the pre-show activities.
Click Clack Boo! A Tricky Treat is the musical adaptation of the children’s book of the same name by Doreen Cronin; and a follow-up of sorts by the Rep, which presented a related Cronin-derived show in 2011, Click Clack Moo! Cows that Type, also directed by Jeff Revels, the Rep’s artistic director. Some of the same characters show up in this most recent production, including Farmer Brown, played by the adorable if cowardly Jason Gerhard, who hates Halloween almost as much as he hates typewriters; the beloved Pig, brought to endearing life by Witney Abell, even though she won’t talk about, but knows she’ll grow up to become bacon; Katrina Johnson’s matronly and unassuming but vocally powerful Cow; Kurt Roth’s spindly, effeminate Duck; and the skittish Hen, played by Jillian Gizzi.
All of the actors in the show come with strong stage experiences and, some of them, with very respectable vocal talent. One of the most lesson-filled songs in the show, “You Can’t Tell Me,” defends the notion that a kid can be anything he or she wants to be with enough conviction and the right costume. The four animal cast members in this number skillfully blend their voices in harmonies and messages that resonate immediately with the audience—grown-ups and kids alike. By my estimation, the show-stopper number is led, somewhat surprisingly, by Cow. Her rendition of “Bump in the Night” is powerful Broadway style belting mixed with a little cabaret and jazz, and it brings the house down as the superior vocal performance of the show. But there is also a reason Jason Gerhard was cast as Farmer Brown, even though the audience might overlook him a bit until the very end of the show’s closing number. He adorably takes the lead with his newly-found courage and winning bright blue ribbon, prompting the entire audience to leave with big grins on their faces.
Click Clack Boo! A Tricky Treat lasts about an hour and fifteen minutes, and the performances are early enough in the day that the little ones won’t miss their nap times or dinner and baths when they get home. The time passes quickly because the show is such fun for the kids. In fact, I heard one little voice in the audience point out that “this is a really long play, but I love it!” and the little girl of about three who sat next to me was giggling in her daddy’s lap the entire time. Kids especially like jokes and references they can understand, such as the barnyard animals shouting a resounding “No!” when one of them suggests listening to “Let it Go;” a Hannah Montana CD found in Farmer Brown’s “big ol’ box o’ JUNK;” and Cow’s getting poked in the…ahem… “booty” during a make-shift pin-the-tail-on-the-COW party game. Much additional chatty commentary filled the few very brief lulls in the dialogue during the fast-paced show, which, to me, is a sign that the audience is enjoying the experience.
You’ve got a number of chances to catch this show again before the run is over—do your trick-or-treating first, and then go see one of the eight shows remaining on the weekends of November 1-2 and November 8-9. The Rep is conveniently located on Princeton near Mills in Orlando (right across from the science center, which also features a season-appropriate bat exhibit right now); there is plenty of free parking; the tickets are a relatively affordable $12 each for kids and $18 for adults, but if grandma and grandpa take the little ones, they get their tickets for $16 each. More information is available at http://www.orlandorep.com/.