“The Calico Buffalo” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at the PTC Performance Space (Closed Saturday July 18, 2015)

Book by EJ Stapleton
Music and Lyrics by Peter Stopschinski and EJ Stapleton
Directed by Craig J. George
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

One of the most difficult tasks in musical theater is the creation of a theatrical piece that appeals to children and adults alike, and that is also based on a wonderful, well received illustrated children’s book. The new musical “The Calico Buffalo” now playing at PTC as part of NYMF, audaciously confronts this daunting task and the results are what can be expected from a work in development. The book by Ed Stapleton is endearing, thoughtful, provocative, and reasoned enough, to embrace this endeavor. The music by Mr. Stapleton and Peter Stopschinski, is varied and sophisticated but at times does not serve the ambience of the situations portrayed or the aura of the characters and would certainly not have a child or an adult leave humming a tune. The lyrics penned by both gentlemen respectfully tend to be overwrought and labored. The direction by Craig J. George is adequate and provides a good pace but lacks structure. As constructive criticism, the piece might fare better with the use of a narrator.

The cast is energetic, enthusiastic and works well as an ensemble. Brooke Shapiro does a fine job with her portrayal of Bittle. Rachel Coloff inhabits the character of Sih-Kuk with perspective, intelligence and confidence. Jennifer Apple, playing Amaruq the wolf and singing the Act 1 finale “Mother Nature’s Mistakes,” is a powerhouse and in fine vocal form.

One incredible feat this endeavor has accomplished, is that I left the theater wanting to purchase the book for my nephews. It is a well-crafted story filled with lessons of life that one would never be too young or old to learn, especially in the world we live in today. Perhaps they should be available in the lobby after the show!