Clop, clop, clap, clap

By Paul Wozniak

Riverwalk’s ‘Thunderhoof’ takes kids, adults on a fun ride

All family shows walk a fine line between child and adult sensibilities. Riverwalk Theatre’s current production of “Thunderhoof and the Prince” teeters courageously on that tightrope. The archetypal characters refer to their originals with a wink and nod, making the show almost too clever for some kids. Overall, however, “Thunderhoof ” does what it sets out to do.

Created by the Lansingbased author Fran Johnson and musically scored by Yvonne Whitmore, “Thunderhoof and the Prince” is a strong first attempt at the type of self-aware parody the movies have gotten down to a science in films like “Shrek” and “Enchanted.”

Under the straightforward direction of Dan Pappas, “Thunderhoof ” trots along nicely as it follows young Prince Alex (Dan Kuhlman) and his gallant steed Thunderhoof (Brian Stratton) on a quest for a princess to marry Alex. They wander from kingdom to kingdom, but Alex ultimately finds true love with the girl next door.

Kuhlman is a better singer than an actor, but his rigid posture is easy to overlook because he spends most of his time with more interesting characters — such as his horse. Ashley Ault is charming as a paperdoll-like mystery singer, the personage with real beauty and brains whom Prince Alex is destined to fall for.

More depth would have made these leading characters more interesting, but a capable cast collectively spurs “Thunderhoof” to full stride with several standout performances.

Among these are Jane Zussman and Tim Lewis as Queen Demonica and Count Kurdly, the show’s only true villains. With their deliciously evil delivery and campy antics, Zussman and Lewis create over-the-top yet believable characters who play off of each other with crack timing.

Mike Stewart is mesmerizing as a werewolf who subtly interacts with the audience and the central characters. With specialized makeup by Bruce Bennett, Stewart’s were wolf is more cuddly than carnivorous. He’s on stage far too little.

Shannon Bonney gives a performance worthy of Second City or "Saturday Night Live" as Blonderella, the least politically correct character of the show. Thankfully, her character’s self-deprecating humor never becomes truly offensive.

Tim Beam, Mark Zussman, Susan Derosa, Bob Murrell, Sarah Hauck and Samantha Stein fill in a number of sideline comic characters.

Musical director Clara Powers provides strong and stable accompaniment to the show’s wry, well-placed songs.

Joe Dickson uses a basic yet effective color palette well suited to Tom Ferris’s aesthetically simple, layered set design.

The show relies heavily on overused puns, but still succeeds due to the overall polished direction and fine performances which will 2 surely Thunderhoof please audiences - 8/12 of & all 19 ages.

‘Thunderhoof and the Prince’

Aug. 9 7 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday
Riverwalk Theatre 228 Museum Drive, Lansing $5-$7 (517) 482-5700