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Ian Carfrae and Robert Hay-Smith's new musical "Pollen" is at the Buskirk-Chumley Theatre in a production directed by Hay-Smith, conducted by James Johnston.

"Pollen" describes itself as "an enchanting musical" in which "strange things can happen when you sneeze."

Now, when I sneeze, it's time to break out a handkerchief, quickly followed by nose sprays and pills, antihistamines and decongestants. But in "Pollen" a sneeze leads Ben the Gardner, winningly played by Tim Reed, to be able to talk with his floral buddies. In Scott Jones clever costumes, they're a colorful lot and each flower has its own developed personality. For example, Carolyn Dowd-Higgins as Rose is a picture of operatic elegance and command. Rebecca Keith's character, Violet, does indeed shrink. Daisy played by Melissa Korzec-Hillman is "fresh as a daisy." Michelle Silverstone as Ivy, clings. There's even a rather prickly thistle, named Spike played by Trent Chitwood.

"Pollen" the musical, gets contemporary with Buff Brown playing a humorous character named Compost. Compost describes himself as an "emperor of ecology." The garden of "Pollen" is threatened by a callous buyer, coldly played by Mike McGregor, John Clough as an energetically opportunistic realtor and Matt Mauntel as a bluffly business like exterminator. I did find myself puzzled about what audience "Pollen" is intended for. It's certainly family-entertainment-clean, but I wonder if it won't be too complicated for young children and too simple for teen-agers. The first act ends rather grimly with anonymous white clad figures killing the garden with herbicide.

Let me reassure you that in the second act the garden does get replanted. A zoning regulation stops the original sale Even characters that didn't quite click in the first act seemed more effective. Jennifer Heichelbech as Mother Nature and as Miss Noble serves to heal and save both the garden and its Gardner. Even Compost is called in for vital help. All our flower favorites return to life.

"Pollen" has a very sharp fifteen-piece orchestra that was a highlight of the production. The show has a variety of musical styles. There is a waltz, a sea shanty, a hoe down, a Latin tune, and a soft shoe number. Both authors and composers Ian Carfrae and Robert Hay-Smith were part of the New Vaudeville Band when it had a hit with "Winchester Cathedral," so it is no surprise that there is a sprightly Charleston.

Ian Carfrae and Robert Hay-Smith's musical "Pollen" plays this Friday and Saturday at eight with three o'clock matinees on Saturday and Sunday.

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