A Wicked Awesome Tribute: “Make Way For Ducklings: the Musical”

Presented by Wheelock Family Theatre
In partnership with Adventure Theatre MTC
Book by Sandra Eskin & Michael J. Bobbitt
Music and lyrics by William Yanesh
Adapted from the book by Robert McCloskey
Directed by Emily Ranii
Music directed by Jon Goldberg
Choreographed by Joy Clark 
Artistic Sign Language/ASL Coaching by Kelly Kim

Feb. 17 – March 12, 2023
Wheelock Family Theatre at Boston University
180 Riverway
Boston, MA 02155
Open Captioning provided at all events 
Accessibility Performance Dates: March 5th, 2023 at 2:00 PM and March 11th, 2022 at 2:00

Run Time: 70 minutes with no intermission

Review by Kitty Drexel

Boston, MA —Wheelock Family Theatre’s Make Way For Ducklings: the Musical celebrates all things great about Boston. Sandra Eskin, Michael J. Bobbitt, & William Yanesh’s musical (based on the book by Robert McCloskey) pays loving homage to the many ways our city amazes and confounds tourists, townies, and even the most stalwart of proud New Englanders. This theatrical tribute is intended for families of all ages. It will surely charm the meanest of Boston bruisers so adults without wee ones should feel free to attend but mind their manners when they do. 

Make Way For Ducklings: the Musical follows the plot of its namesake book: Mrs. and Mr. Mallard (the brilliant Becky Bass and the jubilant Jared Troilo) must find a home for their family in Boston! They search the streets and squares to find the perfect place to lay their eggs (spoiler alert: it’s on a tiny island near the Longwood Bridge). 

Along their way, they meet many Michaels (played magnificently by Ricardo Holguin) who help them navigate not just Mt. Auburn but every other street to get to the Public Gardens. The Mallards, their babies, and the Michaels find their home and along the way discover all there is to know about Boston from a bird’s eye view. 

Make Way For Ducklings goes above and beyond the beloved children’s book to embrace super silly puns, Boston’s philosophical history, arts, Dunkies, wicked pissah accents, the Red Sox, and even parking spot culture! It has a little bit of everything for everybody. 

Bass, Troilo, and Holguin go above and beyond in Make Way For Ducklings. They perform well and, by being in this show, they make themselves of service to their community. At first glance, Make Way For Ducklings, appears to be an above average childrens’ theatre production. 

After that second glance though, this musical has more to offer: life lessons on kindness and civility, Boston pride, appreciation for different cultures and perspectives, teaching younger generations, and respect for the Duck Boats. It is no small thing to do what you love and to be of service to your community. I sincerely hope you appreciate it as much as we enjoy it. 

Criticism is a natural part of theatre-making. Adult actors should be resilient enough to handle constructive criticism’s emotional and mental stress. (This is not always the case, but that’s another article entirely.)  

New England Theatre Geek believes it is important to support the ongoing educational growth of child actors by shielding them from direct criticism until they are adults. We do this by making general, supportive statements on the kids’ behalf. More direct statements are intended for the adults who work with and make decisions for the child actors. 

Parents and creative staff should discuss this review with your child actors. It can take years of experience to understand the nuances of good and bad critiques. Adults, please talk to your child about theatre criticism before someone else does.

The child actors of Make Way For Ducklings: the Musical are full of pizzazz. They are developing good stage technique now that will serve them for years to come. They have great range and strong Boston accents for ones so innocent of traffic trash talk.  

They shined extra bright during the duckling gavotte/”No Complaints” as they expressed their naughtiness. They take to the stage like ducks to water. Pun intended. 

Adults, please help your child actors manage their floatie props so their faces aren’t obscured. We lose their faces when the inflatable ducks’ heads rotate to the front. They are working so hard! Please have them rotate the duck floatie to the side. The gag still lands if the duck head is to the side. 

Sometime in the middle of the performance on Saturday evening, the sound design became uncomfortably loud. The orchestrations were so loud we couldn’t understand the cast’s singing. The balance or the mix was off. The Audience had to rely on captions to understand the lyrics of “Follow My Example,” “The Water is Wide,” and the “Finale.” It took us out of the world of the show. Spoken lines were miced appropriately. 

The joyful scenic design by James Rotondo looks like it sprang out of a tourist’s map of Boston. Kathleen Doyle’s costume design is fluffy yet ergonomical.

If you don’t have a copy of McClosky’s book, Wheelock has copies to purchase in the lobby of the theatre. Copies are also sold at your local bookstore or can be borrowed from your local library. Libraries are excellent resources for people of all ages. Your librarian will help you find Make Way for Ducklings and many other books about Boston. 

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