With these words, our gentle hero
Hue Manatee introduces himself to us and a new friend, the somewhat cynical but endearing musician,
Flickati Cricket, who has witnessed Hue's close call with a boat propeller. The two exchange similar accounts of run-ins with the 'two-legged ones', and share an awareness of each's own deteriorating environment. Together they decide to seek the insight and counsel of wise old
Leon Chameleon, a renowned change agent and teacher.
Leon, about to depart on a long journey, invites the two young ones to accompany him, as an educational field trip, which soon develops into a global odyssey. The adventure ultimately evolves into Hue's personal quest, re-energizes Flickati's musical mission, and provides Leon a long-dreamed-of pilgrimage to his ancestral roots, The Galapagos.
Along the way, the peripatetic trio meet and share songs, as well as assorted perils with such charismatic characters as
Whale and a Dolphin Trio; Elle
Condor, Southern Hemisphere medicine woman of the Todos Tribe, and
Shining Eagle, Northern Hemisphere shaman of the Imaji Nation; and finally, when they reach their destination, the popular Galapagosian quintet,
Before going their individual ways, the three are visited by
Source, Who (in a splendiferous multi-media display and dance sequence) confirms their innermost awareness that all of Life is inextricably interwoven into a tapestry of magnificent colors and textures, each complementing the others, each interdependent upon the rest. James Durst balances the score both with original songs and some collected from several composer friends, to create a rich and varied musical experience that inspires and uplifts while conveying its message of environmental urgency.
Hue Manatee's Quest may be effectively expressed as a multi-media theatre piece, with from 7 to 15 players.
Scene One (A Close Call & A New Friend)
When the peace of
Hue's idyllic habitat (The Rosey Years --Pham Duy/Durst) is shattered by a close call with a boat propeller, he breaks the surface of the water to see what it was that frightened him so. On the nearby bank, wandering musician Flickati Cricket is no mute witness to the near-disaster, but rather highly agitated, vocal and accusatory. "Bi-peds!" she sputters.
Curious, Hue ventures to introduce himself (My Friends Call Me
Hue) and the two, like many opposites, are drawn to one another. "Hue, as in 'colorful'", he offers, humbly. He tells his new acquaintance that he has been noticing adverse changes in his environment. Flickati nods in sympathetic knowing, allowing as how, in her travels, she has seen much of the wasteful disregard of the 'two-legged ones'. She wonders how it is that the 'others' don't realize that they are poisoning their own environment, along with that of the 'beings'; isn't there some way to alert them to their folly and prevent them from destroying the collective environment? She sings
How Do They Sleep?! (Fouling Our Nest). "There must be something we can do," agrees Hue.
Flickati reveals that she has heard of a wise old being named
Leon Chameleon, a revered and renowned 'change agent' and teacher. The two set off to seek his counsel. When at last they find him, he is busy preparing for a long journey to the Galapagos, and pays them little mind. When pressed for answers to their questions about their changing environment, Leon is at first impatient, stressing that "change is inevitable--we must all learn to adapt." "Easy for you to say," remarks Flickati. Leon softens somewhat and elucidates with
This Change Is Everything and is soon joined by his two visitors in lively song and dance. Hue wonders whether this belief is understood and shared by everyone, and Leon explains that each of us tends to have our own unique perspective on truth, which leads to variations in belief systems; but those with similar views seem to find each other in order to support one another. "Even the 'two-legged ones'?" inquires Hue. "Especially them," Leon answers emphatically, and illustrates with
Mystery Loves Company.
Hue brings the subject back to his environmental concerns. Leon, it seems, has had some past contact with the 'two-legged ones', having long ago been a discarded pet; though, with the passing of time, he had developed a philosophy of 'live and let live'. More recently, however, he cannot help but be aware of bi-pedal incursion into natural habitats and their wasteful use of resources. Leon seizes the moment to teach his rapt audience about how the two-legged ones have adversely affected the quality of the air and water with their waste and pollution, singing
Song For The Earth (--J.Scott).
Leon reveals his plans to journey to the Galapagos, his ancestral homeland of which he has only heard, but never seen. Recognizing an opportunity to teach once again and impart elements of his lifelong wisdom and experience to a new generation, perhaps for the last time, he invites Hue and Flickati to join him on his journey for a field trip with an agenda of collecting data and support along the way. They accept excitedly and close the scene together with a rousing and heartfelt version of
We Are All One Planet (--M.Scott).
Scene Two (The Odyssey)
Before departing, Leon takes the youngsters to meet the Northern Hemisphere shaman of the Imaji Nation,
Shining Eagle, to bless their journey. He shares observations of traditional native wisdom, and sings
O Blue Planet. The entire company joins in on the final refrain. Shining Eagle gives them a magic eagle feather imbued with a secret potion enabling them to defy gravity, and fly toward their destination.
As the peripatetic trio begins their journey, Hue asks Leon to tell them more about the 'two-legged ones'. "How are they different from us beings?" he inquires. "Well, whereas we beings dwell in the eternal present," Leon explains, "the bi-peds seem to spend an awful lot of time in what they call the Past and the Future." To illustrate his point, Leon relates a parable, invoking the spirits of the mythical
Hansel & Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood and
Goldilocks to join him in singing Lost In The Kuda Shuda
As the odyssey gathers steam, covering sea, air and land, the magic feather is somehow lost and the three fall precipitously toward the sea. Rescued by
Whale, they meet and share songs with a Dolphin Trio
(I Am A Dolphin --J.Mankita) whose harrowing tale is reinforced visually by multimedia support; and Whale ponders the question of why man can't leave him, a distant cousin, alone
El Condor Pasa utilizes the traditional Andean music and Spanish words to support a colorful dance production to accompany the dramatic flying entrance of
Elle Condor, the Southern Hemisphere medicine woman of the Todos tribe. She sings
Somos El Barco/We Are The Boat (--L.Wyatt), inviting all present, including the audience, to sing along on the chorus. She offers to deliver the three travelers to their destination. They climb aboard her massive back and take the sky once again. From high above the planet, they observe that there are no borders ("no fronteras") and that in fact, all are equal ("todos iguales"), and disappear to the diminishing refrain of the reprise if
El Condor Pasa.
CURTAIN/End of Act One
(Journey's End, The Galapagos Islands)
Arriving in the Galapagos, Leon, Flickati and Hue meet a kind of 'street corner' quintet who is known around the islands as
Acapellago. They treat the travelers to a rousing 5-part rendition of
All God's Critters Got A Place in The Choir (--B. Staines). Leon enrolls the
five as associate instructors to assist him in teaching his young charges about the vital role of
The Rain Forest (--J.Scott) in the interwoven tapestry of Life.
Soon Leon reveals his personal reason for wishing to visit his ancestral home, as he has been aware for some time that his time is running out on this plane of existence. Hue is distraught that
Leon should be departing at this moment in Hue's still nascent awareness. Leon explains about Life's intrinsic characteristic of self-renewal in
Cycle Song Of Life, reminds them to consult their inner teacher for the answers to their questions, and bids his young friends farewell with
What Shall I Take? (--Pham Duy/Durst)
As he prepares for his departure, the three are visited by
Source (I Didn't Planet This Way &
Come To Me), who reassures them they are never completely alone, and are indeed integral parts of Life's magnificent interconnectedness. Each interprets Source's visit according to his/her own needs. Leon perceives the visitation as his invitation into the bosom of Ultimate Awareness. Hue realizes his quest is an individual and personal one, singing to each of his compatriots, as well as his new Galapagosian friends
Song Of A Patriot (I Am My Own Little Nation).
Buoyed with renewed self-confidence and sense of purpose, Flickati decides it's time to take off on her own, to express herself as a fiddler/singer as a means to alert all who will hear her message of peace and environmental urgency (final verse & chorus,
Little Child, Catch A Cricket! --Pham Duy/Durst). This segues neatly into
Friends Don't Say Goodbye, supported by the gathered ensemble.
Dusk settles over them, and the evening star appears. Hue is the first to notice and softly begins to sing
Starlight Star Bright; he's joined one by one, leading into the closing strains, fully and harmoniously sung by all present, as darkness envelops the company and the starlit heavens sparkle over one and all a canopy of incandescent hope and calm.
CURTAIN/End of Act Two