Hen Lake | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Hen Lake 

Hen Lake, LifeLine Theatre. Dancing chickens--that's what this new children's production is really all about. Oh, it has a positive message about believing in yourself because you're unique and reaching for your dreams, but what you're going to remember is the hilarious sight of three chickens performing a barnyard ballet reminiscent of Swan Lake.

Cindy Hanson and Pamela Webster's adaptation of Mary Jane Auch's children's story is a lot of fun. Chuck Larkin's songs can be sappy, and they tend to blend together, but the overall effect is still favorable--particularly given the (uncredited) comical choreography, which reflects the personality and physical traits of each dancing creature.

Director Shole Milos has assembled an enthusiastic four-person cast that gives every fowl its own flavor. Elise Kauzlaric brings grace to the lead role of Poulette (a terpsichorean chicken), and James E. Grote is entertaining as Percival, a foppish peacock with a predilection for multisyllabic words beginning with p. But Nancy Jane Nelson and Jill Stephens are the ones who truly shine, playing off each other zestfully as chickens contented with their lot in life until they're convinced to learn ballet for a talent contest; Nelson's coarsely fierce Claudine is a savvy foil to Stephens's simpleminded Zelda. The show is also wonderfully served by Elizabeth Shaffer's creative, witty costumes and Alan Donahue's bright, appealing set.

--Jenn Goddu

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