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A CurtainUp Review
Piggy Nation The Musical

You don't have to be a pig to be a piggy.
Piggy Nation
Ariel Leasure and Eva Marie Mastrangelo
(photo:Graham Dougherty)
I've spoken before about my dissatisfaction with children's theater, much of which often seems to be disorganized, over-sentimental and not particularly age-appropriate. But our family's recent experience with DR2 Theatre's excellent Velveteen Rabbit was cause for optimism, and I'm happy to say that the positive trend continues with the new children's musical Piggy Nation now at the Jerry Orbach Theater.

Based on television veteran Richard Rosser's book Piggy Nation: A Day at Work With Dad, the musical covers a summer day in the life of pig (not piggy) Sammy Hamhock (David Rosenberg) as he follows his dad Hank (Anthony Police) on the job-issuing citations for "piggy behavior" to animals engaged in various rude activities, from talking too loudly on a cell phone to leaving dirty diapers on a park bench.

The show hews very closely to the book (which I picked up for my daughter, who has been asking to have it read to her regularly ever since) with one exception: a love interest, albeit just a "playdate" between Sammy and Lacey Leppard (Sophie Schulman). Said love interest is made more difficult by Sammy's father, who for all of his zeal to rid the world of piggy behavior doesn't realize how much he contributes to that world himself.

It's not likely to make anyone forget The Secret Garden or The Wind in the Willows any time soon, but Piggy Nation deserves a lot of credit for coming up with an admirable concept and sticking with it.

The musical is filled with unique and interesting characters. My daughter's favorite was Lacey, which may have had something to do with the long conversation she had with her after the performance; also the catchy, if not overly memorable, music.

The show's original California production featured a cast of children; getting an all-adult cast to work the same way is critically important, and for the most part director Kim Moore succeeds. Particularly good performances are by Ariel Leasure as Sandy Squirrels by, Fanny Flamingo, Rosy Ravenhorse, and Brandon Curry as Larry Lizardo and Oliver Oxley, but in general the whole cast holds up well. And the musicians, Rona Siddiqui and Travis Kirk Coombs, do an admirable job to keep the music flowing smoothly.

My only reservation is the venue. The reputation of the Jerry Orbach Theater is obviously well-deserved, but I'm not convinced that a musical like this is well suited for a space as (relatively speaking) traditional as the one since there isn't much opportunity for physical interaction with the audience (almost all children with parents or grandparents, of course). I'm not sure a more experimental venue wouldn't have worked better for the needs of a children's musical.

Ultimately, issues with the staging don't overwhelm what is a sometimes clever and always fun production. Judging by my family's reaction —especially from my daughter, who has started to seek out and correct examples of piggy behavior in the rest of her life — the message is getting through. If you have children between the ages of three and ten, I can recommend Piggy Nation as a fun show.

Piggy Nation The Musical
Based on the book by Richard Rosser
Book and Lyrics: Richard Rosser
Music: Alec Wells
Direction: Kim Moore
Cast: Brandon Curry (Narrator, Larry Lizardo, Oliver Oxley), Kristin Guerin (Zoey Zebransky, Captain Dana Deerling, Bunny Bozelli), Ariel Leasure (Usher, Sandy Squirrelsby, Fanny Flamingo, Rosy Ravenhorse), Eva Marie Mastrangelo (Rudella Leppard, Harriet Harrelson, Billy Baboonsky), Anthony Police (Hank Hamhock), David Rosenberg (Sammy Hamhock), Chandler Smith (Mr. Prickles, Carl Crowson)
Musical Direction: Rona Siddiqui
Musicians: Rona Siddiqui, Travis Kirk Coombs
Choreography: Annalee Wright
Lighting: Nick Solyom
Costumes: Holly Leff-Pressman
Running time: Seventy-five minutes with no intermission
The Jerry Orbach Theater at the Snapple Theater Center, 210 West 50th St., (212) 921-7862
From 3/16/13 to 6/16/13
Saturday @ 11 a.m. and 5 p.m., Sunday @ 12 p.m.
Tickets: Standard tickets $30-44.00, premium tickets $60
Reviewed by Dr. Gregory A. Wilson and family based on March 24th press performance
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