SALT LAKE — I love the holidays. I adore the peaceful sight of Christmas lights and falling snow. Wouldn’t Christmas be even better with farm animals, though? This year, I get to add the delight of a cow singing about electric blankets to my yuletide experiences. The joy and comfort is almost more that I can bear.
Doreen Cronin wrote a clever little book called Click Clack Moo: Cows That Type, where Farmer Brown’s livestock uses a typewriter to communicate with him. James E. Grote adapted this tale for the stage, adding some wonderfully clever content, and George Howe rounded out the adaptation with his delightful songs. This musical, playing at the Salt Lake Acting Company, is a fantastic little play for anyone with a sense of humor, not just kids.
Director Penelope Caywood presents a vibrant story from the first seconds of the show. The opening number is reminiscent of “Good Morning, Baltimore” from Hairspray, the way the farmer (Randall Eames) greets his day in song. He was so cheerful, setting the tone for the audience. I loved the animals barnyard noises turned singing, “Moo, moo-moo-moo moo.” The musical director, Darrin Doman, helped the actors to engage the audience with the score in every musical number.
The charming Austin Archer, who plays Duck, narrates the story with effortless wit. My six-year-old son and I simply adored him. Who can help but fall for an adult who shakes his tail feathers and carries a magic remote control?
Each of the animal actors had such great physicality. The cows swayed their heads back and forth, and danced with their hands in fists like hooves. Hen jerked her head forward and back in pecking movements and kept her fingers closed together to act as wings. I recognized (Cow) Shelby Anderson from SLAC’s Circle Mirror Transformation and (Cow) Camille Van Wagoner from The Grand Theatre’s Urinetown. It’s so fun for me to recognize actors from other Utah productions; I was especially thrilled to see Kalyn West again, playing Hen this time; she was divine in Plan B’s The Third Crossing.
Keven Myhre’s colorful set was based on the illustrations by Betsy Lewin that appeared in the children’s book. Jesse Portillo added even more interest and color with his great lighting design. My son loved the disco ball, and I fancied the blue tones of the pond scene and electric blanket song. I noticed and enjoyed Josh Martin’s sound effects, like the typing; and the musical transitions were seamless; I barely noticed them. The costumes by K. L. Alberts were adorable, reminding me of the intended animals, but with fun touches like knee-pads and Converse tennis shoes.
In addition to directing, Caywood also choreographed the show. My son and I loved the tap dancing, executed so well by Anderson, West, and Archer. The back-up singer/dancer aspect of the electric blanket song cinched the deal for me: I came away singing that chorus for days. Camille Van Wagoner, as the sensible cow, did so wonderful with that melody.
It’s been a while since I didn’t have kids, so I could be wrong here, but I really believe that any audience member would enjoy this show. There is plenty of (appropriate) content thrown in for the adult attendees: like allusions to influential novels and one quite popular musical, plus an entire song dedicated to the theme of revolution (i.e., bigger words). Plus, duck will knock your socks off, “Oh cowy-wowy!”
My son and I were tapping our toes on the front row; I’d see Click Clack Moo three more times. Make your way to The Salt Lake Acting Company and enjoy this jolly trip to the farm.