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a Children's Theater
by Book and lyrics by Anthony Drewe, Music by George Stiles

COMPANY : Alliance Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Woodruff Art Center [WEBSITE]
ID# 3990

SHOWING : March 05, 2011 - March 20, 2011



A musical for families based on “The Ugly Duckling.”

Ever have the feeling that everybody else goes quack and you go honk? Based on the beloved children’s story “The Ugly Duckling,” this eye popping children’s musical tells the story of a little duckling that isn’t quite like the others. On the journey to find himself, he discovers it isn’t what’s on the outside the counts and that every ugly duckling can grow up to become a beautiful swan.

Winner of the Olivier Award for Best Musical (the British equivalent of the Tony Award).

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Finding Your Waddle
by Dedalus
Monday, April 11, 2011
Alas, poor Ugly! Hatched from an over-sized egg, he’s the funny-looking one in Ida and Drake’s brood, the not-so-fluffy outcast with the croaky honk in place of the gentle quack. His siblings hate him, his neighbors hate him, and even his father hates him. Only his mother and the neighborhood cat find him appealing, and the cat is interested only in lunch.

And there we have the set-up of “Honk,” the musical adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson’s classic story, “The Ugly Duckling.” The Alliance is staging the “junior” version of this musical (one act – 75 minutes) and it is a light and breezy show with a gaggle of tuneful songs and a flock of gallinaceous (*) performances. In fact, I doubt if I’ll have an opportunity to slip in the classic collective word for swans (“lamentation”) as there is nothing to lament about this production.

The first thing that’s apparent is the marvelously outsized pond that is the set. Fronds and pods tower to the light grid, and magical lights reflect as if from waters disturbed only by a brood of puffballs. Blues and greens spill into the audience, and the magic of the farmyard is in full chorus even before the first cue.

Then Drake the Duck rises from his camp chair, drawls out the opening notes of “A Poultry Tale,” and we’re off on a magical adventure of a youngster leaving his hostile home to find his inner waddle, and flying gracefully back when he has grown and been accepted for who he is.

Topping the magical performance list if Christy Baggett’s devoted Ida, the mother duck we all wish we had. Leslie Bellair waddles nicely as Ida’s friend Maureen and then returns later as the gracefully swanlike Penny. Justin Tanner is suitably sad and awkward as Ugly, and I really enjoyed how he managed to stay heroic and gentle and outgoing, discovering his “inner swan” long before his “outer swan” became evident. And J.C. Long, among other roles, cuts loose nicely as a foot-tapping Bullfrog in “Warts and All,” my favorite number in the show. Everyone else (the regal Cynthia D. Barker, the drakish Brandon O’Dell, and the catlike Eugene H. Russell IV) succeed equally in creating a clutch of characters and critters that Ugly meets along his travels. Make no mistake, there is more waddling going on here than any stage has seen since the “Henny Penny” segment of “Story Theatre!”

Saturday night’s opening night crowd was stuffed to the rafters with a rafter of kids, all of whom appeared to have a marvelously good time (as did the tall folks with them), and all couldn’t resist leaving with a
cacophony of Honks and Hoots. This is that kind of play! Rosemary Newcott has done her usual outstanding job herding her herd of characters and bringing out the birds that apparently sleep in all of them.

So, if you have a pod of peewee humans hanging around your nest, now is the time to gather them up and head Alliance-ward for fun-filled trip to the pond. I daresay, there will be no lamentations if you do (unless three swans can be called a “lamentation”).

-- Brad Rudy (BK

(*) Just so you don’t have to look it up:

gal•li•na•ceous adj \ga-lə-nâ-shəs\ : of or relating to an order (Galliformes) of heavy-bodied largely terrestrial birds including the pheasants, turkeys, grouse, swans, geese, ducks, and the common domestic chicken.



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