Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type, Lifeline Theatre. This is as sophisticated a children's show as you're likely to see. Adapted for Lifeline from a popular picture book, it boasts a clever script, snappy songs, and an enthusiastic young cast with the chops to come off well even while singing doo-wop in barnyard drag. The costumes are witty right down to the pink teat panels on the cow suits, and the choreography has an easy grace. The show's so winningly smart, so perfectly endearing, in fact, that it gets tedious well before its 50 minutes are up.
The problem is that Click, Clack, Moo isn't really a children's show at all. It's a parents' show: an entertainment for that crucial minority at each performance that does the driving and buys the tickets.
I'm not suggesting a cynical manipulation here, or even a conscious one. What I'm suggesting is that somewhere along the line--perhaps out of boredom--playwright-lyricist James E. Grote, composer-lyricist George Howe, and director Shole Milos stopped worrying about how little kids would respond to this tale of cross-species negotiations on a dairy farm and started pitching it right over their heads to their college-educated guardians. How else to explain coy references to Das Kapital and Animal Farm? Or the rhetoric out of Malcolm X? Or the fact that the only big laugh the kids gave this show came when Farmer Brown took a slapstick tumble? That they could understand.