The Rose glows in its production of the musical Honk. The cast, the sets, the costumes all combine for a wonderfully polished performance.
This adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Ugly Duckling thrives in a cute, sweet script by Anthony Drewe. Although he devised this especially for young audiences, he’s made sure that adults have something to enjoy; there are plenty of funny lines with them in mind. He and composer George Stiles have also turned out eleven charming songs for this 70 minute delight.
Ugly, for so our central character is known, has different adventures than those of the once-upon-a-timer. Massive unseen humans do not handle him with care. Ugly immediately, effortlessly loves swimming as if born to it, while his brothers and sisters need training. Then he’s led astray by seemingly friendly Cat, who wants him for lunch, e.g. Duck a l’Orange. Ugly escapes. Meanwhile, his foster-mother Ida is searching everywhere for him. Ugly encounters a variety of birds, including a squadron of geese and a beautiful female swan, Penny, with whom he falls in love. While Ugly wanders looking for his duck family he becomes frozen in snow. Don’t worry. The happy ending blossoms.
Drewe doesn’t push too hard on the famed moral of the tale emphasizing instead how to tell it. Among the special creatures comes gabby investigative reporter, Jaybird. Ugly also connects with stop-over geese as if a group of British WWI flying aces, Greylag their captain. And there’s Bullfrog, sounding like a stand-up comic making points singing “Warts and All.”
With more serious dimensions, Drewe’s never-seen but sometimes-heard humans suggest dangerous giants. Also there’s dialogue about and an incident regarding human duck hunters, people whose aim is not benign. Clearly not everything in this take on the tale is totally innocent, as can already be seen with Cat.
From start to finish Dan Chevalier makes Ugly endearing, convincingly child-like and innocent. In this 15-member group of performers, Zach Kloppenborg’s version of Greylag has smart spiff and style. Plus Robby Stone, a Rose regular, once again comes across with memorable personality, this time as Bullfrog.
Six other adults and six children merge into an impeccable ensemble, making all the right moves and gestures including some especially clever ones by choreographer Sue Gillespie Booton. Further, everyone sings expertly, blending well with Stiles' pre-recorded music.
Jeff Stander’s sets look great, with barnyard painted strokes suggesting Van Gogh’s explorations of similar places, Stander also devised a beautiful winter scene. And has Cat’s home add to the fun, with its worn-out soup can. Plus Christopher Dills has come up with marvelous props such as the vegetables in Cat’s kitchen.
Costume designer Sheri Geerdes created the laudable look of this production with such details as speckled pants legs, feathery accents and marvelous white clothes for the swans, including Ugly’s enventual tux with special tails.
Director Cynthia Gendrich stages all of this with invention and style, making sure that the acting is never over-done while keeping the pace lively, looking effortless.
As usual, though, The Rose program gives no background information about the creators of what’s being produced.
Brits Stiles and Drewe won several awards for this 1993 show. They also wrote songs for the hit stage version of the film Mary Poppins, the same one The Rose presented in June last year. Plus other ways to portray famed stories on stage such as Peter Pan, Goldilocks and The Three Little Pigs, not to be confused the by Mark Charlap, Jule Styne, Carolyn Leigh for the former. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Stiles https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthony_Drewe.
Their imaginative, joyful show takes flight. The Rose has it all together.
Honk is performed through Apr.10 at The Rose Theater, 2001 Farnam St. Fri: 7 p.m. Sat: 2 & 5 p.m. Sun: 2 p.m. Tickets: $18. http://www.rosetheater.org