Endangered: The Musical, by Keni Fine and Tony Small, is like The Wizard of Oz meets Hairspray. It’s about a young boy’s journey, and it has a social message. The story centers on Levi Lovewell (Theo Errig), a young, aspiring journalist whose parents shelter him. But, during a trip to the zoo, his curiosity gets the better of him and he breaks away from them.
On his own in the zoo, Levi meets Janie Goodall (Maggie Ronck), a TV news reporter who is covering a story about the endangered animals at the zoo. She dismisses his interest in journalism, and doesn’t understand the power of social media or Instagram followers. When she gets wind of a big storm—Superstorm Beyoncé—heading their way, she suspends her coverage and leaves the zoo. She advises Levi to do the same. He asks why she’s leaving when the animals could be in danger. She replies: “I just report. I don’t get involved.” But Levi stays put, and when the storm hits, he’s locked in the zoo.
At first, he sings, “I want to know, I really want to know, I want to know, know, know, know” about the world around him. Errig, the young actor who plays Levi, has the chops to deliver the song in a way reminiscent of pivotal moments in a Broadway show. He’s scared when the animals come out, but then he opens up, and really does get to know them. They deliver a message about global warming and climate change through song and dance. Billed as an “eco-musical,” Endangered, directed and choreographed by Michael Chase Gosselin, will have you snapping your fingers and tapping your feet.
Each animal has an individual personality, and they are well physicalized. The fabulous and fun costumes by Collin Ranney lend both a comic as well as outrageous touch to each one’s characterization. Einstein (Nate Rocke), a whooping crane, wears granny glasses and a white wig that make him look like an English rocker who has gotten loose in Alice in Wonderland. He’s clever and finicky, and is seen as the most sensible of the group. G-Low (Nicolette Shin), a golden tamarin monkey, is bouncy and beautiful, as is Sita (Ani Djirajrian), a cheetah. Snoop (J’royce Jata), a spotted skunk, looks like Jimi Hendricks but raps like, well, Snoop. Another tribute is made to rock-and-roll with Crankee (Connor Delves), a crocodile with blue lips who plays the piano. They are all tremendously talented, but Dana Scurlode as Bam-boo, a giant panda, is a standout star with a voice like Aretha Franklin.
As Levi gets to know the animals while the storm builds outside the zoo’s gates, he comes to learn that their habitats are being destroyed by overdevelopment and pollution. At one point Levi expresses a wish to go home. The animals echo his sentiment, and tell him, “There’s no habitat like home.”
When the storm finally hits the zoo, Goodall learns of a boy who’s missing and puts two and two together. But the powers-that-be want her to stay put. Goodall goes through a transformation and realizes that it’s important not only to report but to get involved. There is an appeal to the audience to do the same.
Endangered is a wonderfully entertaining show. Although it is geared toward children, when Levi says, “Real news matters. Factuality is actuality,” it also delivers an important message for our time.
Endangered: The Musical plays at the Davenport Theatre (354 West 45 St.) on Tuesdays at 11 a.m.; Wednesdays at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.; and Thursdays at 11 a.m. Tickets may be purchased by visiting Telecharge.com. Visit www.EndangeredTheMusical.com for more information.