By Jacob Ruscoe
Venice Theatre is kicking the summer off right with its fun, energetic production of Honk. This Anthony Drewe and George Stiles musical based on the story of the Ugly Duckling, reminds us that it is alright to be different. Honk follows Ugly in his journey to find himself and a place of belonging. Seen as an outcast by his siblings and his father, Drake, Ugly is befriended by the Cat whose sole ambition is to eat Ugly.
As the musical unfolds Ugly interacts with a variety of characters each playing a role in his journey of self-discovery.
Honk Director, Kelly Dunn has taken a classic story and presented it in a manner that leaves your heart filled with happiness as well as giving you a new appreciation for a story you thought you already knew. Her message to the audience is a simple reminder of “how boring it would be if we all looked the same”. The show is part of Venice Theatre’s Generations Series which uses cast members of all ages. It is an amazing experience to watch a show where the most seasoned of actors share the stage with a child making his theatrical debut. The cast has an unmistakable chemistry that helped bring a smile to every child and adult who had the privilege of watching this magical story unfold.
Scenic Designer, Tim Wisgerhof and his team created a masterful, visual display that makes you feel like you are on the farm from the moment you enter the theatre. The set while simplistic creates a warm environment that stimulates the audience and enfolds them into the story. As Honk begins, Drake, played by Luke Manual McFatrich, captivates you into the classic tale. He is both witty and charming. McFatrich’s connections with his fellow castmates help to accentuate this polarizing character. Rebecca Cross plays Ida, Ugly’s mother who never gives up in her belief that Ugly is truly something special. Cross is the calming force throughout the chaos of Ugly’s venture to find himself. Her motherly overtures and beautifully sung ballad, Every Tear a Mother Cries, will resonate with every parent who sees this production.
Ugly is portrayed by Filip Svoboda. While Ugly may seem like a simplistic role to play it requires an innocence that can be difficult for even the most veteran performer to pull off. Svoboda not only makes you believe in truth and virtue, he does so with a zest for life that makes you yearn for him to find happiness even though you already know the transformation yet to unfold. Svoboda conveys the true beauty of the Swan he will become through the kindness and goodness he demonstrates with every character he encounters.
While Honk is full of energy, I found myself wanting more of the Ensemble. Every time the young children playing the Fish and Frogs took the stage it brought a smile to my face. Their excitement and love of being in this show was evident throughout. They not only complimented the other characters but they enhanced the story and did so in an unapologetic manner. They were the perfect example for any young performer as to what it means to give it your all and not hold back.
It is a busy time of year and theatre choices abound. However, when it comes to the perfect carefree, family musical, Honk should be on your must-see list.