Honk! is the stage version of The Ugly Duckling that tells the story of a young duck whose unappealing looks forces him from the flock due to ridicule and taunts. Along the way he is pursued by a hungry cat and a frantic mother. His journey to find love and acceptance is filled with adventure, charm and humor. The story, which teaches tolerance, is told in part through energetic song and dance performances, thanks to musical director Patrick Martin and choreography by Jaydie Allen. The director, Diane Hancock, sings high praise for each cast of about 30 young performers.
“The story is not contemporary,” and the kids are not as familiar with the dialogue and characters as they might with a Disney production. Martin says the harmonies are complex and “not really written for children.” But the casts have risen to the challenge and deliver impressive performances.
Highlights include the opening Poultry Tale, where the actors introduce the story in song and dance. And Look At Him, performed by the entire cast, which is a defining moment when Ugly is singled out by family and neighbors for the way he looks – a number that is reprised in the finale.
The production is enhanced by a brightly colored set: Vivid greens and browns form a comically over-sized pond, created by a team of community volunteers.
Hancock reflected on early rehearsals when the stage experience of the multi-age performers ranged from zero to several years. “Right now,” just days before the opening performance, “it’s hard to tell the difference.” Older, “more experienced” actors willingly serve as mentors. Chloe Cyr who plays Ida, Ugly’s mother, says “I like interacting with the younger kids and helping them in their acting ability. They’re fast learners.” And, she added with a smile, “I like being looked up to.”
Angel Spiller agrees, “This is really fun. We come together like a big family. The older kids helped me when I was little. Now I can give back.”
Honk! is produced by Heidi Doucette and Gail White. It opens March 4 with 12 performances through March 20 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Consult www.windhamtheater.org for times and cast performances.