On Theater: Kids, parents would be lucky to see 'Duck'

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Somewhere "up there" Hans Christian Andersen probably is looking down at South Coast Repertory's latest Theater for Young Audiences production and musing, "This seems vaguely familiar."

The show in question is "Lucky Duck," a satirical treatise on Andersen's classic "The Ugly Duckling," by Bill Russell and Jeffrey Hatcher. It's presented in 21st-century terminology and set to a terrific musical score by Russell and Henry Krieger.

And it's not just for the kids. Parents will appreciate the show's takeoff on "American Idol" and the various movie references ("Gone With the Wind," "Oklahoma!") inserted into the dialogue, not to mention the superior singing voice of Jamey Hood in the title role.

Hood enacts a foundling named Serena, raised with duckling siblings (Renee Brna and Gloria Garayua) but not really one of them — thankfully, since the other two possess the tonality of screech owls, while her own solos will knock the socks off the audience.

Playing opposite her, and gleefully keeping the audience uncertain as to whether he's friend or fiend, is Brian Ibsen as a predatory wolf who swears he's gone vegan, and who becomes Serena's agent. His partner in crime, Clem Coyote, is briskly played by Nicholas Mongiardo-Cooper.

Tom Shelton, a familiar face from SCR youth shows past, neatly enacts the king of the forest realm, with Amy Tolsky sharp as his backbiting queen. Their princely son, Drake, who rejects the duckling then yearns for the swan she becomes, is nicely portrayed by Jeffrey Christopher Todd.

Yes, the "swan" plot hook is unveiled early in the show as Hood blossoms into an avian dream, but that's not the climactic moment here. It's whether the wolf can shed his wolfishness in matters of the heart.

The musical score — beautifully arranged by Harold Wheeler of "Dancing with the Stars" — is a particular treat and Hood's talents are put to fine use by director-choreographer Art Manke. It's a delightful show calculated to charm the kiddies while making the grown-ups snicker.

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Playing at OCC

Orange Coast College's student actors and directors will present a collection of six plays this weekend — collectively titled "Augustine's Confessions: Scenes From American Life" — in the Drama Lab Studio Theater.

The plays, all written by contemporary playwright John Augustine, are recommended for mature audiences and focus on the absurdities of modern life.

Performances are at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $5 in advance and $7 at the door.

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Rocking musical

The upcoming "Rock of Ages" musical at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts will offer a free lunchtime mini-concert at 1 p.m. Feb. 24 on the ground floor level of Jewel Court at South Coast Plaza.

The new musical comedy features the best arena-rock anthems and power ballads of the 1980s, with cast members singing numbers made popular by Journey, Styx, Pat Benatar, Poison, REO Speedwagon, Foreigner and Bon Jovi.

Some lucky attendees will receive free tickets to see "Rock of Ages," which plays at the center from March 1 to 6.

TOM TITUS reviews local theater for the Daily Pilot.

If You Go

What: "Lucky Duck"

Where: South Coast Repertory's Julianne Argyros Theater

When: 7 p.m. Fridays, and 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Feb. 27

Cost: $18 to $30

Call: (714) 708-5555

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