by DICK KEREKES
Children’s theatre is back at the Alhambra Theatre and Dining at 12000 Beach Boulevard here in Jacksonville. An original musical version of “The Ugly Duckling,” based on the 1842 Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale, opened October 19 at the Alhambra. This delightful adaptation was created by two Alhambra Staffers. BECKY SAWYER UIBEL wrote the book and MICHAEL URSUA wrote the music and the lyrics and recorded the sound track.
The story is about Hubert, a duck who was gray when he was hatched, instead of yellow like his two brothers. Because he is different he is looked upon with scorn by almost everyone except his mother. Hubert runs away from home, and encounters other animals along the way including a cat, a fox, a frog, a rooster and finally a swan.
The play is a subtle lesson for children that the world would be boring if we all looked alike, and it is okay to be different, and it does have a happy ending.
Ursua’s music is very peppy and quite catchy. I liked “What’s Different About Me” and “Everybody Listen Up.” One song was an audience participation melody which the children seemed to enjoy. Since I am just a kid at heart I participated and did well with Stand Up, Sit Down, Stomp Your Feet, Wave Your Hand, and Clap Your Hands. I did not do well with Shake Your Tail, but hope to improve with practice.
The five actors were dressed in colorful outfits reflecting the animal they were playing. Yellow and gray for the ducks, a fur jacket for the cat, a brown shell-like jacket for the turtle, green for the frog and white for the swan. My personal favorite was the fox’s costume, with red slacks, shirt, and tie topped with a straw hat, while a crowd favorite was the red headdress for the rooster.
The box office opened at 10:00 am, the show started at 10:30 and was over at 11:45. After the show the entire cast came out and spread themselves out to visit different sections of the theatre, talk with the kids and pose for photos by the accompanying parents and teachers. My section got the rooster and we were delighted.
The five actors were professionals, who are or have been in shows at the Alhambra. JAYMESON METZ was the Ugly Duckling, PATTI EYLER played Dori/turtle/Courtney the Cat, ERIK DECICCO was Duckling #1 and Rocky the Rooster, ALEX JORTH performed as Duckling # 2 and the fox and KATIE HENSLEY appeared as Lydia/frog/ Shannon the Swan. The entire cast related well to the enthusiastic children.
The kids from Alimacani Elementary School that comprised the first audience were very attentive and seemed to thoroughly enjoy their field trip to a dinner theatre. They found scene changes captivating, cheering and cheering throughout the accompanying brief lighting blackouts. They also enjoyed the jokes. A favorite: “What do you call a box of ducks? A box of quakers!!”
The Alhambra is a wonderful setting for a field trip for schools. It is easy to find and traffic after rush hour is much lighter than downtown traffic. The large parking lot has room for buses. The lovely fountain is a grand attraction and makes an excellent setting for photo opportunities.
“The Ugly Ducking” will remain the show for this school year; a new show will be mounted for Fall 2013. Dates remaining for 2012 are October 24, November 2 and 14, and December 7 and 14. Children can bring brown bag lunches with drinks and stay to eat at their tables after the show. The Alhambra can open shows for parties of 250 or more. For more details and reservations call 641-1212 or visit their website at www. ahambrajax.com.
The Ugly Duckling
by DICK KEREKES