Everything's Ducky, the new musical take on "The Ugly Duckling" that was such at hit at TheatreWorks in Palo Alto, CA, in January and February, will see its Midwest premiere this fall in a co-production by Repertory Theatre of St. Louis and Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park.
Playbill On-Line has also learned that negotiations continue for a commercial California run and perhaps a tour of the new musical, written by co-librettist Jeffrey Hatcher, composer Henry Krieger and lyricist and co-librettist Bill Russell.
A commercial continuation of the TheatreWorks staging was hoped for in May at Theatre on the Square in San Francisco, but a staging there is now more likely in early 2001 after a holiday 2000 run at Tom McCoy and Cathy Rigby's La Mirada Theatre in California.
Gip Hoppe, the original director, will stage the Midwest nonprofit productions and is expected to continue with the project in California. A 2001-2002 national tour is apparently being mulled, with a major New York producer attached.
Jack Tantleff, agent for the authors of the hip musical fable that was so embraced by audiences and critics in the Bay Area, confirmed that the show is a hot property. "I have never, ever had a new musical that has had this much [producer] interest, at a far-flung theatre," said Tantleff. "[Palo Alto] is not someplace where people usually look."
Tantleff suggested that the fall 2000 Cincy and St. Louis stagings would be designed and cast "with an eye toward" a future commercial life.
Repertory Theatre of St. Louis will open its 2000-2001 season with Everything's Ducky, Sept. 6-Oct. 6, with a Cincy run to follow, Oct. 17-Nov. 17. The Playhouse in the Park is officially announcing its 2000-2001 season March 15.
Krieger and Russell's previous musical was Broadway's short-lived, serious-minded Side Show, but Ducky is a sillier, family friendly fable about a country chick's brush with big-city swandom. Russell co-wrote the libretto with Jeffrey Hatcher (Three Viewings).
Performances of the initial TheatreWorks run played Jan. 19-Feb. 13 at the Mountainview Center for the Performing Arts. Two performances were added.
The show got solid reviews and audiences embraced its brassy, musical comedy style. It was the biggest box office hit in the 30-year history of TheatreWorks.
Director Gip Hoppe helmed the story of Serena, a young duckling whose appearance is mocked by the barnyard folk. She leaves to find love and success in the big city and ends up in an underground club called Poultry in Motion, where young ducks fall prey to wolves. She escapes and meets a fashion photographer and a fashion exec who turn her into a supermodel.
An extension of Krieger and Russell's beauty-and-freak themes in Side Show, about conjoined twins who play vaudeville, Everything's Ducky has a serious core underneath its bright shell, the authors say.
"It's about acquiring self-esteem, taking each day with a plucky attitude, and not letting anyone make you feel like you aren't good enough," Krieger, who also wrote tunes to Dreamgirls, said in a statement.
Everything's Ducky featured Angela Robinson (Paper Mill Playhouse's Dreamgirls) as Serena and Michael McEachran (Broadway's Little Me) as Prince Drake. The company included Gina Ferrall, Danny Burstein, Karen Murphy, J.B. Wing, Andrea Chamberlain, David McDonald, Josh Prince and Bobby Daye.
Director Hoppe is also a playwright, known for Jackie: An American Life. Linda Goodrich choreographed.
Designers were Robert Bissinger (set) and Beaver Bauer (costumes).
Everything's Ducky is not to be confused with the London-born Honk!, a family-oriented musical based on the same source material, that played the Helen Hayes Performing Arts Center in Nyack, NY. That musical shocked the London theatre community earlier this year when it beat The Lion King in the Best Musical category of the Olivier Awards.
-- By Kenneth Jones