‘Click, Clack, Moo’ play shown at NCC
By Annie Alleman For Sun-Times Media April 28, 2011 11:00AM
‘CLICK, CLACK, MOO’
♦ 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. May 7
♦ North Central College’s Pfeiffer Hall, 310 E. Benton Ave., Naperville
♦ Tickets, $5-$10
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
An award-winning children’s book comes to life with a modern twist in Naperville.
On May 7, North Central College presents “Click, Clack, Moo,” a musical theater production based on the Caldecott Medal-winning book by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin. Esteemed company Theatreworks USA performs two hour-long matinees suitable for children in preschool through fourth grade.
In the book, farm animals find an old typewriter in the barn and begin leaving the farmer messages complaining about their working conditions. Every night the barn gets very cold and in the morning the animals are cranky.
Duck tells them he stays warm because of the down in his feathers, which the farmer uses to make blankets. The cows decide that they want blankets too, but aren’t sure how they can tell Farmer Brown.
For the stage, a new character is introduced. Shayla Spradley plays Jenny, Farmer Brown’s granddaughter. She visits the farm one summer and brings her laptop with her so she can keep in touch with her friends.
When Jenny leaves her laptop and printer in the barn, the animals figure out how to type a note to Farmer Brown. All day long Farmer Brown hears “click clack moo, clickety clackety moo ...” The cows refuse to make milk and the chickens won’t lay eggs until conditions improve.
“Jenny is not in the book, and a lot of kids ask me about that,” Spradley said. “They wrote her in to bring her laptop to the farm and start the mayhem. They all know what a computer is.”
A typewriter would seem like a foreign concept to most children of the digital age. Even though she is new to the story, Spradley said the kids are quick to accept her character.
“It’s pretty easy to get them on my side,” she said. “It doesn’t take too long. They understand the cows are cold. Jenny ends up standing up to the farmer. She makes a case for the cows and puts him in his place. She sings a big song and jumps off a barrel of hay. It’s someone kids can relate to.”
Her age isn’t specified in the script, but Spradley says she plays Jenny as an 11-year-old.
Jake Ottosen stars as crotchety old Farmer Brown. He thinks fans of the book will be reassured when they see the set and the costumes.
“They’ve done a great job looking exactly like the illustrations in the book,” he said. “I wear the same colors and costume as the farmer. The cartoony nature stayed intact.”
There is a lot for kids to enjoy in the play, including the duck that brings the messages back and forth.
“He is hilarious, telling jokes and making fun of the cows,” Spradley said. “There’s also a lot of puppetry.”
“There are certain prop gags that kids always laugh at,” he said. “The show is built well in terms of songs and transitions. It’s colorful and easy to follow. Kids infallibly laugh at the puppets.”
The actors realize that bringing this book to life comes with a certain level of responsibility.
“For a lot of kids, this is their first time seeing live theater,” Spradley said. “I try to remind myself of that every day — that for many of them this is the first time seeing someone sing live. When I hear the kids laughing and clapping, it’s really worth it. It’s magical to see them all respond. At the end, some stand up and clap their arms above their heads, they’re so excited. It’s great to see that.”
At one point, Farmer Brown gets a taste of his own medicine.
“I have to stand there and be upset and crying,” Ottosen said. “They (the kids) are laughing and telling me it’s my own fault, or else talking to me and telling me it’s OK,” he said. “I love hearing anything at that point, because it means they are fully engaged and there with me either way.”
She’s glad the Naperville performances are open to families, as “there are jokes in the show for parents. I’ve had several adults say to me they love the show. It’s fun for both parents and children.”