Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Honk! – Book by Anthony Drewe, Music by George Stiles, and Lyrics by Anthony Drewe based on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Ugly Duckling

By Joe Straw

I speak to my daughter about the craft, about what she should be doing on stage, conflict, objective, and characterization.  She listens but I don’t think she gets it.  That comes in time, when moments click, giving one a better understanding of being focused on stage. – Narrator

In the meantime, there is the dee-Lightful program, where children from 8 to 14 years old gather together to make sense of a new and exciting craft, that of musical theatre.  It is a chance to learn to sing and dance on stage as a stepping point to the craft of acting.

Dolores Aguanno’s heart is in her craft as she directs most productions giving focus to new minds first steps in creative tasks, and, well it’s all about the picture, and picturesque actions on stage.

So, take a breath and step inside the land of enchantment, a farm.

Honk! – A slight prequel.

Well into the first days of spring, almost into the summer months, the cicadas sing a lovely song as I tread down a well-traveled road to the farmhouse.     

A comforting stroll, just listening to the jostling sounds of gravel clacking against each other gives me solace in my stroll.  And embracing life experiences I use the sense of sight, smell, touch, and sound to experience nature, the farm, the farm, as I know it.  

To my left is the pig trough - would only be considered a cover now – old, wilted, not much left of the lumber used to construct it, the pigs are long since gone, too much work for those aged out of that settled life.    

A sudden gust of wind catches the open leaves, a susurrus of songs – the moving sound of ecstatic dancing greens.

The barbed wire fence on my right encloses a few cattle that masticate fallen apples from under the apple trees. Above, the bees circle the trees, and dance on the last remaining blossoms.  As the apple tree stretches to the sky, the tree limbs project apple dumpling pies just waiting for the country table.    

The road traveled forks into a dirt road to the left, and down the dirt road is the chicken house clamoring with hundreds in fowl conversation. Below that house is the green reflecting pond where hot cattle lift their tails to make cool waves ripple in in the midday sun.

The farmhouse is up the small hill, just beyond the gravel road.

To the left is a nice garden, beyond the garden a pasture littered with brown cow pies.  The crib and the barn are to the right.

Eyes lifted – the blue sky hugs the horizon and stops at the lumbering pines.  

But for now, we move toward the farmhouse shaded with trees encircling the house.

A red cardinal jumps from limb to limb and nearby an angry blue jays wards off all comers with a leaf in his beak slamming it on the porch near that ball of fur.  This is the place where something is always happening.  – The Traveler.

Honk! - The musical.

The gluttonous cat half asleep on the front porch keeps one eye open for the blue jay, the other on the eggs.  She twists her whiskers, slowly stretching her back as she gingerly steps around the nest of unhatched duck eggs.

But the eggs are guarded in its enclosure, and by mother duck, Ida, who sits diligently near her eggs while Drake, nearby, shuffles his webbed feet to gather sustenance – corn kernel droppings – from humans better left unseen!  Still, Drake waits, but not so diligently, as he says he’s got much to do. 

Both keep a watchful eye on the cat.

Maureen comes by to catch up on the latest gossip and sing about The Joy of Motherhood and in that entire beautiful ruckus the ducklings hatch – all except the black egg. 

Drake, man duck that he is, provides the new born ducklings with the overprotecting flotation devices and off they go to the nearest pond for their first lessons of survival – wading – while Ida waits for that last remaining egg to hatch.

Yellow is the family color, yellow like the daffodil, or the roses near the front porch, their color for many generations, but suddenly out pops Ugly, a brown feathery stubbled-colored different kind of duck, with a different kind of waddle. And then Ugly surprises Ida with a loud HONK! Ida thinks it’s peculiar, a vocal impediment of some kind, but Ida is endeared to Ugly’s being.

With little spare time before the ducklings come back, Ida teaches Ugly to swim.  And Ugly proves to be masterful in the way she negotiates the lake.

So beautiful in the way Ugly experiences the lake, in her baby-like being, she comes back to the rest of her family, only to be castigated by her siblings for being different.  Look at her they sing pointing fingers, and scowling.

Baby ducks can be so cruel. So cruel they won’t let Ugly have bread.  

And that leaves an opening for Cat to take Ugly away, first in the hopes of having a nice meal.  But she finds that it is a difficult process because Ugly is not understanding anything, including being eaten.  After a ball is thrown at cat, Ugly makes a quick getaway.  

Ida, noticing that Ugly is missing, implores Jaybird from Britain’s Most Feathered, and her audience to help her find Ugly and then leaves home to try and find her.   

There are always things to admire about Dolores Aguanno’s direction and Allegra Williams’s choreography. Shine is the term when I think of for an Aguanno production because everyone gets the opportunity to deliver in that one lasting moment.  And if one were looking (Casting Directors), they would find a few small acting gems in this production. Certainly Mirabel Armstrong, and Katelyn Coon are standouts as Ida, as well as Cali Kimura as Ugly. Also, Ella Kendall shines in a beautiful and haunting rendition of The Blizzard.

And the rest of the actors also did remarkable work.  There was much joy in seeing the hatchling hatch, and watching Greylag perform her duties in fine British military manner, “wot!”  

I enjoyed it so much I saw it three times! What’s not to love about children learning and growing?  

The cast listed below is divided into two distinctive casts.  

Character                 Yellow Feathers Cast                 Orange Beaks Cast

Ugly                         Brooke Rosenbloom              Cali Kimura
Ida                            Katelyn Coon                         Mirabel Armstrong
Drake                       Keaton Asma                         Joe Call
Cat                           Jules Henderson                     Malia Reiss

Ducklings & Froglets

Beaky                      Cambria Boulanger-Jewell     Cambria Boulanger-Jewell
Billy                         Mia Story                               Mia Story
Fluff                         Ella Kendall                           Ella Kendall
Downy                     Ava Allred                             Ava Allred

Ensemble Ducklings: Aili Poinsett-Yoshida, Hope Sato, Ian Warfield

Maureen                   Sophia Martin-Straw             Charlotte Ceugniet
Henrietta                  Sophia Falk                            Sophia Falk
The Turkey              Evyn Armstrong                    Ian Warfield
Grace                       Charlotte Ceugniet                 Sophia Martin-Straw
Greylag                    Ben Sanderson                       Sophia Falk
Dot                           Elizabeth Forman                   Camille Ceugniet
Barnacle                   Sophia Falk                            Ben Sanderson
Snowy                      Aili Poinsett-Yoshida              Ian Warfield
Pinkfoot                   Hope Sato                                Camryn Walker
Bullfrog                    Ian Warfield                             Evyn Armstrong
Mrs. Bullfrog           Camryn Walker                       Olivia Andrews
Penny                       Camryn Walker                       Aili Poinsett-Yoshida
Father Swan             Ben Sanderson                        Ben Sanderson
Mother Swan           Charlotte Ceugniet                  Jules Henderson
Bewick                     Elizabeth Foreman                 Hope Sato
Jane Bird                  Olivia Andrews                      Piper Samuels
Farmer                      Joe Call                                  Keaton Asma

Snow Soloists: Elizabeth Foreman, Ella Kendall, Piper Samuels, Ben Sanderson
Snow Dancer:  Hope Sato
Yellow Feathers Ensemble: Mirabel Armstrong, Camille Ceugniet, Cali Kimura, Piper Samuels
Orange Beaks Ensemble: Katelyn Coon, Elizabeth Foreman, Brooke Rosenbloom

Honk! ran from May 19-21, 2016 at Veteran’s Memorial Auditorium, 4117 Overland Avenue, Culver City, California.  Run! Run! Run! to see the next production Shrek July 14th, 15th, and 16th.

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