Honk!

Written on December 6th, 2017

Ugly Duckling makes a Cute Musical   

A sweet musical, now on stage at St. Jacobs Country Playhouse, takes Hans Christian Andersen’s fable of the Ugly Duckling and turns it into a song and dance story, complete with an anti-bullying message.

Like the fairy tale plot, a big egg appears in Mrs. Duck’s nest.  A big grey duckling hatches, in contrast to the rest of the cute yellow family.  The other ducklings shun him, calling him Ugly.  He’s very unhappy and runs away, almost falling for the false friendship of a nasty cat looking for his next meal.  But (spoiler alert) Ugly turns out to be a swan, the most beautiful and graceful of all birds, and he is finally accepted and loved.

The costumes are a delight, thanks to designer Rachel Berchtold.  Rather than dressing the ducks in actual duck costumes, they are dressed as children in bright yellows with orange stockings, while Ugly wears a boring grey outfit.  Likewise, the rest of the all-animal/bird cast are dressed in people clothes.  The costumes work very well to humanize the story.

Nathan Carroll is an adorable Ugly Duckling, and has fun with his loud “Honk!”.  Try as he might, he can’t quack like his brothers and sisters. The four ducklings are sweet, despite excluding Ugly.  Rachel Babor, Christine Watson, Sam DiGiuseppe and Tim Porter shine as ducklings, especially when they tap dance their way out of the eggs.

It’s a star-studded cast.  The inimitable Susan Gilmour is Ida, the mother duck, while the incomparable Charlotte Moore is Grace, the matriarch of the barnyard.  Both have amazing voices.  Kyle Blair is very menacing as the sneaky Cat who stalks poor Ugly.  Blair has all the right catlike threatening moves. Aaron Walpole gets the most laughs with his froggy face.

I asked an expert for her opinion: six year old Grace sat next to me on opening night.  She was certainly part of the right demographic for this show.  Her favourite character was Penny, the young swan who gives her full support to Ugly, played gracefully by Sarah Higgins.  She seems to be a favourite of the young theatre-goers because as Grace said, “She’s the nicest”.  Higgins also has fun with her role as a reporter named Maggie Pie.

This is a darling little musical that children will love and adults can appreciate.  Any concerns I have are not with this production, but more with Hans Christian Andersen himself.  While it’s an excellent reminder that bullying and shunning are very hurtful, it may be giving the wrong message.  Bullying should be stopped immediately, not just when someone changes their looks.  Our acceptance of everyone should go well beyond appearance.  That’s a discussion that I hope families will have on the drive home.

In the meantime, it is a good introduction to theatre – bring the kids or grandkids and enjoy!

Honk! continues with eight shows a week until December 24 at St. Jacobs Country Playhouse, St. Jacobs. Tickets are available by calling Toll Free 1-855-372-9866 or the local Box Office 519-747-7788 or check www.draytonentertainment.com

Photo: Susan Gilmour as Ida, the mother duck, and Nathan Carroll as Ugly, in Honk!  Photo by Hilary Gauld Camilleri.

Honk!  A Musical Tale of the Ugly Duckling
Book and lyrics by Anthony Drewe
Music by George Stiles
Directed and Choreographed by David Connolly
Musical Direction by Steve Thomas
Performed by Rachel Babor, Kyle Blair, Nathan Carroll, Eric Da Costa, Sam DiGiuseppe, Susan Gilmour, Sarah Higgins, Kayla James, Susan JohnstonCollins, Larry Mannell, Charlotte Moore, Tim Porter, Margaret Thompson, Aaron Walpole, Christine Watson.
Produced by Drayton Entertainment
St. Jacobs Country Playhouse, St. Jacobs
November 29 to December 24, 2017
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

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