But what about the behind-the-scenes folks, the ones who seldom blow their own horns, the talented performers who cram into a dark pit under a stage for two-and-a-half hours and make beautiful music together? Technically, these folks do blow their own horns: trumpets, clarinets, saxophones, you name it. They are the ones who put the music in the musical and do so without hogging the limelight.
Let's hear it for music director Amy Hruska and her versatile orchestra: Sean Linfors, Susan Davis, Allen Cole and Jack Sullivan. They set the barnyard beat, performing rousing numbers like "A Poultry Tale," "Play with Your Food" and "Warts and All," then shift the mood with sentimental tunes that touch the heart. These unsung musicians should take a center-stage bow. Director Robin Arthur deserves accolades for his ambitious production of "Honk!," the musical that was first hatched in England and won the Olivier award for best new musical in 2000. Arthur manages to corral a barnyard full of felines, fish and fowl in a delightful delivery of the downy message: Beauty is only feather-deep.
Scott Wichmann as Cat swaggers across the stage and simply steals the show. He woos the audience and especially Queenie (Joy Williams) with his purrfect French accent and fantastic feline moves. His tango with Queenie is worth the price of admission.
Steve Perigard as Ugly (not ugly so much as dorky) waddles through his identity crisis in fine form. His honk is a hoot. Kara Harman, Desiree Roots, Joy Williams, Gordon Bass and Richard Koch are top-notch throughout. Harman's vocal performance is a wonderful introduction to the world of opera for young theatergoers.
While we're at it, let's give the designers credit where credit is due. Mercedes Shaum's multilevel stage design makes for an enchanting and ever-changing set. Lighting designer Lynne Hartman achieves dynamic special effects: a flickering television, a spectacular sunset and alarming gunfire. Jason Bishop's clever costumes capture the essence of every character: the ragtag cat, the battle-ready geese, the elegant swans, the adorable little ducklings, fishies and froglets. Gucci, Gucci, goo. Bishop's furry and feathered creations are a show in themselves.
And, finally, the ensemble, a gaggle of talented youngsters deserves a hearty bravo. They quack, they croak, they waddle, they swim, they dance; they are so adorable, you'll want to take them home. They join the cast in putting a fine feather in the cap of Theatre IV as it wraps up the season with an enchanting production. S"Honk!" plays at the Empire Theatre at Theatre IV, 114 W. Broad St., through May 12. 344-8040. Tickets cost $18-$22.