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Paulanne Simmons

"Pucelandia" Is a Colorful Show for the Whole Family

Pucelandia: "the Pucical Musical"
Directed by John W. Cooper
The Shell Theater
300 West 43rd Street, 4th floor
From Dec. 11, 2008
Tickets: $20, children under 15, $15, (212) 352-3101 or theatermania.com., group sales (646) 765-7670
Closes Dec. 28, 2008
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons Dec. 13, 2008

If you're looking for low-cost, high-value entertainment for yourself and your children this holiday season, you can't do better than Turtle Shell Productions' "Pucelandia: the Pucical Musical," a delightful musical fairytale with book and lyrics by Fran Handman and composed by Sheldon Gartner.

The show features a multi-generational cast directed by John W. Cooper. It tells a tongue-in-cheek tale about the foolish young King Millikin (Ari Shaps), who in a fit of peevishness over his cousins' endless fighting about the colors of holiday decorations, declares that all colors save puce shall be band from his kingdom, henceforth to be called Pucelandia.

His top minister, Criskin (the joyfully evil Luke Tudball) uses the new law to tighten his control over the kingdom and at the same time make himself a small fortune. With his co-conspirators, Merz (Joshua Nicholson) and the enforcer, the misunderstood Bullock (Alex Adams), he sets up a small industry creating puce-colored glasses, which all citizens are required to buy and wear. One wonders if they might not have received their training in Chicago.

But all fairy tales must have heroines as well as villains. And in Pucelandia, the heroine is the young girl, Lucy (Angelina Kelly), who befriends the king and, eventually makes him, along with all his countrymen, see the folly of his ways. Kelly is a little girl with a tremendous voice, which she shows off quite effectively in songs like "May I Say Goodbye?" and "I'll Never Paint with Yucky Puce Again."

And, of course, all fairy tales must have their foolish servants. In this case they are an asymmetric pair, the rotund Griselda (Angela Dirksen) and the tall and lanky Throckmorton (Tegan Flanders). Dirksen and Flanders give the show the kind of robust mayhem that delights children of all ages and prepares skeptics for the fun to follow.

Handman and Gartner's songs are generally short, which is good for a family show. And musical director Tracy Stark infuses the songs with an energy that gives every one the quality of a well-aimed punch. The show also has a few gentle ballads like the beautiful "If I Lose You," sweetly sung by Lucy's mother, Helena (Sonya Cooke).

Kyle Dixon has made the most of a tiny stage that works well for the children, but needs good planning for the not-so-small. The castle walls and garden are just enough to stimulate the imagination and frame the action, without overwhelming a small-scale show.

Adults in the audience may well smirk at the political satire that keeps poking out from the fantasy. But while parents are snickering, their children will be watching with wide-eyed wonder as good battles evil and triumphs, which indeed it should in Pucelandia during the holiday season, as well as in every land at every time.


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