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Kansas City Ugly Duckling Gets a Shot on Broadway

By Mathew Katz | March 20, 2012 7:22am
"Lucky Duck," a modern-day retelling of the story of the Ugly Duckling, moved to New York from Kansas City for one week in March.
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Coterie Theatre/J. Robert Schraeder

MIDTOWN — A Kansas City Ugly Duckling is getting its crack at Broadway fame.

"Lucky Duck," a new musical that's part "Ugly Duckling" and part "Glee," is now playing at the New Victory Theater in Times Square.

The show is so authentically Midwestern, all the costumes, props and even the set had to be loaded into a 26-foot diesel truck and driven halfway across the country, from Kansas City's Coterie Theater to 42nd Street.

The musical was written by composer Henry Krieger, who also wrote the score for "Dreamgirls," along with Bill Russel. The kid-friendly show retells the classic Ugly Duckling story, centering around Serena, a singing farm girl who's the odd duck of her family and eventually runs away to the city to become a star.

"We try to do what Pixar does," said director Jeff Church. "There's a level that's just right for kids and a level that parents get — the response has been fantastic."

Compared to audiences in Kansas City, Church said New Yorkers are more vocal — kids watching the play in Midtown have shouted out responses to characters and brazenly interacted with them in a way their Midwestern counterparts never did.

"It just shows me the kids are really engaged deeply it it — the fourth wall erases and they can just talk to us as performers," he said.

The play originally premiered in the summer of 2010 and came to New York after the New Victory's director of programming saw the show in Kansas City and decided it was good enough to get a shot on Broadway.

"New Victory and us, we share the same idea.," Church said.

"We don't like to program things that talk down to children. Even though it's for young people, it's sophisticated."

The show runs until March 25. After that, Church and his team will pack up all the sets and costumes and ship them back to Missouri.

That may not be the end for the play's big-city aspirations. Representatives from three different touring companies will be in the New York audience this week to see if the musical can hack it as a traveling show.