Posted on July 12, 2011 at 2:21 pm

Jonathan Takiff reviews “The Trumpet of the Swan” in the Philadelphia Daily News:

Swans and Teddybears and Devil’s music … oh my
by Jonathan Takiff/Philadelphia Daily News staff

We’re swooning for a Swan and going for a Bears hug with the most interesting of new album releases.
SWAN SONGS: Martin Short was happy to detail many a project (like his show this past Sunday at the Mann) during a recent chat. Yet he failed to mention participation in the just-out recording of “The Trumpet of the Swan” (PS Classics, A) a “novel symphony for actors and orchestra” based on E.B. White’s novel, brightly adapted for recording by Marsha Norman, with a handsome score by Jason Robert Brown.

Was Marty worried about offending local sensibilities (which he may) with his comically negative portrayals of two Philadelphia “types” – a slimy talent agent and the self-serving fictional boss of the Philadelphia Zoo? And there’s no ignoring those recurring put-downs directed at our fair burg. At one point, the narrator (John Lithgow) warns the title character (a swan named Louis) that he might have his wings clipped by keepers at America’s first zoo so that “he’d have to remain in Philadelphia for the rest of his life – a horrible fate.”

But we can take a joke. Right?!?

Devotees know “Trumpet” as the third leg in White’s trilogy of fanciful animal tales – the others being “Charlotte’s Web” and “Stuart Little.” Those children’s books made for adorable films. This one’s music-minded plot – a trumpeter swan (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) takes up the brass horn because he’s otherwise mute and needs to impress a girlie bird (Mandy Moore) – lends itself to a “Peter and the Wolf” style audio-only adaption.

The richly orchestrated underscoring and interludes range from big symphonic themes to waltzy pop and swinging nightclub jazz, while the acting/narration (Kathy Bates and James Naughton also participate) draws vivid pictures in your mind.