Animal of the Year | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Animal of the Year 

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Animal of the Year, Bailiwick Repertory. From the start of this competition--a televised pageant for animals, testing their personality, brains, and survival skills--it looks as if the crown will be going to a good-natured but timid moose named Harry. Sure, he lacks the confidence of fellow contestants Lightning the Racehorse, Brenda the Police Dog, and Jojo the Space Monkey, but that's part of his charm. But when everything begins to go wrong for Harry, it becomes obvious that someone is sabotaging him. His paddle breaks, his rope is greased--is it his competitors or this year's spotlight-loving hostess, Annabelle the Cat? It's a mystery for kids to consider as they enjoy the songs and silliness of this appealing musical comedy, written by Larry Bortniker and Sally Deering and directed by Rusty Hernandez. In the end the audience votes on the winner, and the decision is a tough one given the enthusiastic portrayals by talented comic actors Matthew Amador, Brannen Daugherty, A. Nikki Greenlee, Dustin Hamilton, and Kim Ferse, who capture the animals' species-specific mannerisms perfectly. Jared Moore's color-happy lighting lacks purpose, but Angelo D. Petronio's costumes and Allison Greaves's makeup help make the characters convincing. Children will giggle at jokes about homework and smelly socks, while adults will laugh at the double entendres. Audience members of all ages can appreciate the show's smart songs and the snazzy dance numbers choreographed by Pamela Sue Fox.

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