When I was first invited to see HONK! THE UGLY DUCKLING MUSICAL, I didn’t know it was a full-fledged MTI production. I thought this show was going to be strictly for little kids – it would be fun and the cast would be your typical middle school / high school cast, but I was so wrong. Featured at Heritage Hall, 1800 NW 122nd Street, a private school in Oklahoma City, the cast, which is a mix of kids from elementary to high school, could rival some universities. Adapted from the 1843 Hans Christian Andersen story The Ugly Duckling, HONK! sells the classic through song and dance and a bit of ironic humor, suitable for children and adults.
In this interpretation of The ugly Duckling, the show begins with the mother duck, Ida, sitting on her eggs. Everyone notices that there are four full sized eggs and one large egg, and after a very relatable song The joy of motherhood, the eggs hatch and everyone sees that the large egg produces an “ugly duckling”. Members of the community laugh at Ugly, including his father and four siblings. When the other ducks demand too much attention from Ida, Ugly is drawn to the cat, who wants to have her for lunch. At one point, the ugly duckling wanders away from the cat and tries to find its way back to its mom. However, it is a very difficult task for him and lasts during the hunting season and winter. Throughout this journey, he meets a whole series of characters who try to help him on his way. In the end, of course, he finds out that he is a beautiful swan and is finally accepted by the inhabitants of the lake.
Director Jay Ferguson has chosen a wonderful cast to play these very colorful characters. Evan Hulse, who played the main Ugly Duck, made me laugh and smile all the time except during the touching moments, where I admit I might have shed a tear. He was attached to his character throughout the play, even during the encore. Jessica Leite, who played the mother of Ida the Ugly Duckling, sang beautifully, shone in her cute yellow dress, and was convincing as a mother who worried about her lost duckling. Cat-playing Romello Nicholson was cunning, charismatic, and reminded me a bit of the big bad wolf from INTO THE WOODS. My kids, who were also in attendance, wanted me to also mention the Bullfrog, played by Austin Le. They were both equally amused by her performance and song Warts and all. I expect great things from this cast in the future.
I like to give extra points to the fact that they had a live band for their musical. I know that often there is no way to get musicians there, maybe because of the funding or the time and talent available; so when there is live music I like to recognize it.
There are two performances left tonight and tomorrow October 2-3 at the Howard Theater in Heritage Hall. You can get the tickets at the door, but I recommend you pre-order on their websites at www.heritagehall.com/tickets.