Published May 13, 2019 | By Adrienne Proctor
Honk, jr. is a lovely adaptation of The Ugly Duckling, and the Thelma Gaylord Academy presents it with Spring in their step. Featuring a cast made up of the Academy’s 7-14-year-olds, these students tell the sweet tale of Ugly, a baby chick who just doesn’t quite belong with his duckling siblings. After being unfortunately separated, Ugly sets off to find his family, and meets some wonderful friends along the way.
The delightful cast is a large ensemble, and they’re ever present and professional. Hanna Andreassen is Grace, Carys Argueta is Bouncy Froglet, and Charlee Barks is Beaky Duckling. Josephine Barks is Jumper Froglet, Kelly Briseno is Pink Foot, Susannah Brown is Snowy, and Maylee Chapman is Skippy Froglet. The Blizzard Soloists are Natalie Dennison and Reagan Riley, Caedmon Glossup is Billy, and Cyrus Glossup is Barnacles. Proud papa Drake is played by Ayden Hartel. Eila Hartley is Hoppy Froglet, Harper Johnson is Penny, and Emmaline Jones is Jaybird. Lily Lashely is Greylag, Ainsley Manners is Mother Swan, and Claire Ockershauser is Downy Duckling. Nikki Oliphant is Ribetta Froglet, Emma Poindexter is Maureen, and Maddox Radcliff is Father Swan.
The sneaky, slinky cat is played by Samantha Rother. The adorable turkey is played by Sophia Sammons. Mama Duckling Ida is Nia Sier, and the lovely and not at all “ugly” duckling, simply known as “Ugly”, is played by Estella Stevenson. Kiara Tournear is Henrietta, Wes Washburn is the Bullfrog, and Emma Wells is Dot. Emma Wilson is Beatrice, Elliott Yi is Bewick, and Prestyn Yi is Fluff Duckling.
What a great cast!! These performers don’t miss a beat. Even the most critical theatre reviewer can’t find a complaint, and we don’t grade on a curve for student productions. The show has vibrant, beautiful costumes that invoke Spring-time, rainy days and flowers. The makeup sparkles in the bright stage lighting, gleaming like feathers. Each group of animals that comes on stage has their “duty” toward helping Ugly, and the clear demarcation between the species is entertaining and pertinent. All the wonderful aspects of childhood and storytelling are presented here. Honk, jr. is imaginative, magical, and heartfelt. It’s a superb lesson for children, and a gentle reminder to adults, that love and acceptance are universal themes found throughout our natural world. It also serves to remind that the planet we share with animals is their home as much as it is ours. Yes, all these deep moments can be found in this sweet story.
The harshest critics are the kid patrons, always, because they expect and deserve quality. In today’s screen-time world, it’s a refreshing break to expose those junior members of the family to live theatre. The whole way into the Lyric’s plaza location, my 3-year-old asks me about the movie theatre. I remind him each time that we aren’t going to a movie, but a live play with real actors on stage. Neither of my children’s attention spans are tested. They are held mesmerized throughout the two-act show while they watch and experience a live production put on by people they can recognize. Little people, like them. Just like how Ugly finds his way, the kids in the audience are shown that there’s a place for everyone in the theatre. And acceptance is key! There’s always room for more love, and that is not in the least bit “Ugly”!