Farmer Brown has a problem. All day long he hears the sound of "click, clack, moo" as his cows pound out missives on their battered typewriter instead of producing milk.
Adults would call the situation a serious labor dispute.
But the preschool-young elementary audience "Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type" aims at won't know that term. (Likewise, they probably don't know what a typewriter is: In a moment that makes adults feel ancient, the script handily explains it as the precursor to the computer.)
At an Orlando Repertory Theatre performance this week, youngsters seemed less interested in the politics and more enthralled by Cow 2 and Hen's bickering — all the way down to "are not!" "am too!"
Adapted from Doreen Cronin's children's book by James E. Grote, the story is as old as capitalism: The workers, ie. the animals, want better conditions: Their barn is cold. The management, Farmer Brown, doesn't agree. It all culminates in a strike in which the cows refuse to give milk and the hen refuses to lay eggs. Best not to think about the biological implications.
Director Jeffrey M. Revels, the Rep's artistic director, keeps the hourlong show light, greatly helped in setting a breezy tone by Loren "Coco" Mayer's whimsical costumes — I swear the cows' udders were made from pink fanny packs.
The cast, all Repertory Theatre veterans, are game as they hurl childish insults like "scrambled egg face" at each other or make pronouncements such as "We've had enough of Farmer Brown treating us like cattle."
("But isn't that what we are?" a fellow cow asks in bewilderment.)
One suspects they are laughing on the inside at the grownup jokes sprinkled into the script. The industrial action starts after Cow 2 reads "Animal Farm" by George Orwell, discovered in a box with Malcolm X's "By Any Means Necessary."
Beth Neel is a funny, feisty bovine "union leader," and Jef Holbrook as narrator Duck delights the audience with his magic storytelling remote control that can rewind and pause the action. (That's a concept the kids can understand.)
Except for the opening "Music to My Ears," the few other songs by George Howe and Grote aren't memorable or particularly tuneful — though be sure to listen for a snippet of the French revolutionary national anthem "La Marseillaise" in the animals' fight song.
But the children won't care; they'll be busy oohing at a shiny silver curtain or screaming at a random shout-out to Justin Bieber.
Just don't be surprised if they come home and demand a raise in their allowance.
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See for yourself
•What: Orlando Repertory Theatre production of "Click, Clack Moo: Cows That Type," a children's musical adapted from the Doreen Cronin book
•When: 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Saturdays, 2 and 5:30 p.m. Sundays, through March 27
•Where: Orlando Repertory Theatre, 1001 Princeton St., Orlando
•Tickets: $17 adults, $15 students and seniors; $11 ages 17 and younger
•Online: Orlandorep.comCopyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times