DRAMA REVIEW : ‘Bremen’ Band Goes to Town on and off the Farm
There was trouble in the barnyard. Charlie the rooster wanted to crow any old time he felt like it. Dapper the hound dog was falling behind in his duties. Melpomene the cat was lazier than ever. And Horatio the donkey was griping about the bundles on his back. The whole place was falling apart.
“The Bremen Town Musicians,” performed by the Cerritos College Children’s Theatre, is a delightful tale of four lazy beasts who get booted out of the barnyard by their mistress. Presented at the Cypress College Theater last weekend, the play follows the four on their odyssey to becoming the Bremen Town Musicians. It will be performed again today, at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa at 2 p.m.
It is probably not easy to walk like a rooster unless you happen to be one, but Daniel Weinell is utterly convincing in his roosterlike movements and occasional crowing. Tammy Mannon and Jeff Teague are equally believable as Dapper the dog and Horatio the donkey, respectively. Perhaps the best performance, however, is delivered with many a convincing meow by Tara Johnson as the lazy Persian cat. The realistic performances by these actors are what make the whole production really work.
The rooster--in orange beak, orange tights and orange high-top tennis shoes--is jumpy and energetic, as you might expect from the former head of a chicken coop. The cat is whiny and indolent and wants nothing more from life than to “sit in the lap of luxury” and do nothing, as one of her songs attests. Dapper the dog is earnest but incompetent. Horatio has big dreams and hee-haws a lot.
Along with the animal quartet, the show is enhanced by a charming, original score of 13 numbers and an endearing group of children from the Cerritos area.
Based on an old German folk tale written by Charles Grimm, the musical begins with the animals grumbling about their barnyard responsibilities and singing about the virtues of making music rather than performing farm chores. “Brraaay,” sings the donkey: “Folks come from miles around to hear this donkey bray.”
After the others are kicked out of the barnyard, the donkey discovers that the bundles on his back can be used as bongos, and he launches into a song about achieving fame and fortune as a musician. On the road to the town of Bremen, the four are reunited and all agree that they would make a dandy band. Soon, however, they learn that desperate highwaymen have abducted their (now beloved) mistress and have taken her money and stashed her in a dungeon.
As the villainous highwaymen, David Billhimer (as Reginald) and Luis J. Estrada (Roscoe) are hilarious. Reginald is the brave ringleader, Roscoe the cowardly apprentice, and both are trying their darnedest to be bad.
Leaping into action, the rooster leads the others on a raid of the highwaymen’s hide-out. While the hungry four are trying to decide whether to rescue their owner or, first, eat the villains’ food, Mistress Mabel sings a sweet song from her dungeon: “Abandoned, deserted, a prisoner forlorn; oh how I wish I’d never been born.” The song brings tears to the eyes of our heroes, who manage to tie up the abductors, and Mistress Mabel is saved.
In Bremen, where they are all celebrating the happy turn of events, Mabel asks the animals to come back to the farm. When they refuse, town officials declare them heroes for their brave rescue, and they are made the official Bremen Town Musicians.
The play, written by Pat Hale in 1962, was adapted by the Cerritos College Children’s Theatre to include several parts for children, according to director Ilean Rabens. About 25 children, age 9 and older, were chosen from open auditions for minor roles as animals and cuckoos. The cuckoo scene, with a dozen brown-feathered cuckoos streaming out of a clock tower, is a lively number about the responsibilities of keeping time.
‘THE BREMEN TOWN MUSICIANS’
Today, 2 p.m.
Orange Coast College Robert B. Moore
Theatre, 2701 Fairview Road, Costa Mesa.
Information: (714) 432-5880.