Everything's Ducky, Northlight Theatre. This musical, an adult adaptation of "The Ugly Duckling," has an able director, a dynamite cast, and a lovely score. Now it needs a book: it's full of gags and puns signifying nothing. Though the bits are amusing, the threadbare subject is too trivial to sustain a two-hour play. Playwright-lyricists Bill Russell and Jeffrey Hatcher copy most shamelessly from Bye Bye Birdie and the "Passionella" section of The Apple Tree: unlovely Serena (the appealing Jennifer Powers), who wants to be a movie star, becomes smitten with an Elvis-style bad boy (Sean Allan Krill in a brilliant performance). But so much has been stolen from so many that, midway through, the writers finally acknowledge it, stringing together lyrics from multiple sources: "Starting here, starting now--from this moment on--everything's coming up roses." These allusions, like those to Hollywood figures, seem designed to make the audience feel sophisticated, but they only highlight the show's lack of substance and odd mix of naivete and camp.
The company is excellent; Tari Kelly stands out for her combination of comic and vocal skills. Marc Robin's choreography is adorable and his direction fast paced, but he should reexamine the show's racial stereotypes. Putting an African-American actor (the talented Sean Blake) in Aunt Jemima drag complete with head scarf, followed by a turn as a Rasta man and another as a gangsta, is troubling. Quote earlier musicals if you must, but leave minstrelsy alone.