‘Ugly’ lights up the stage in Far Rockaway

By Lehman Weichselbaum

A welcome bit of family theater has come to the Rockaways.

“Ugly” is a new musical play from the mind of Samuel J. Bernstein, who wrote the music and lyrics.

The Bayswater Players make up the cast for the show, which is performed on stage at the Bayswater Jewish Center Theater. The script is based on the Oscar Wilde story “The Birthday of the Infanta.”

“Ugly” is a fairy tale in the mold of “The Princess and the Frog” and “Beauty and the Beast.”

The young hero is Elgin, a hunchback peasant with a mop of prematurely white hair, big ears and vaguely monkey features. The haughty young princess of the kingdom summons all the children in her realm to the royal palace.

Their task is to entertain her on her birthday. Elgin carries the day with his dancing skills. However, class prejudice and prevailing standards of beauty rob Elgin of his triumph.

Time passes, Elgin and the princess reunite, and the sagacity that comes with maturity resets their course together. The moral is that beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder, and the beholder needs to wise up.

Bernstein’s curtain-to-curtain stream of songs, with their range of ominous staccato chords and skipping beats, scored here to a solo piano (uncredited), have the winning simplicity of nursery tunes. Yoni Ohana, who carries the weight of the play as the prepubescent version of Elgin, boasts a nicely brushed tenor voice and the liquid moves of a very young Danny Kaye, played against a game chorus of schoolgirl actors.

Heather Kanner, the director of the show, inserts the proper small flourishes and does double duty, playing the shrewish Duenna. The set by Brian Smart shows how far slabs of carved and painted plywood can go to create a fully enveloping stage world.

The halting moments that go with any community theater, especially that which features a school-age cast, don’t diminish, but if anything serve to enhance the endearing qualities of the play.

“Ugly” continues its run at the Bayswater Jewish Center Theater — located at 2355 Healy Ave. in Far Rockaway — this weekend with shows scheduled for Nov. 17 at 8 p.m. and Nov. 18 and 7 p.m. To purchase tickets, visit www.eventbrite.com/e/ugly-tickets-51988070719?aff=erelexpmlt.

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