There's trouble down on the farm. An ugly duckling's missing, a cat is suspect, and a mother is distraught. Will the lost one find his way home, find a love, and find his beauty? The Academy of New Church wants to tell us that everyone can do just that.
Honk! was composed and written by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe in 1993. It opened in Britain, delighting its viewers with a parody of Hans Christian Andersen's The Ugly Duckling. The story follows Ugly (Simon Daum) from barnyard outsider to beautiful swan with the help of animals in and around his farm.
The Academy of New Church presented this heartwarming story at a nearly professional level. Everything from the voices, to the set, and to the choreography was clean and filled with character.
Simon Daum's portrayal of Ugly was positively endearing. Innocence seemed to flake off his smile, tugging at the outsider in all of us. Equally earnest was the character created by Justine Brannon, Ugly's mother, Ida. Justine's love for her son and the stage were apparent. She was well complemented by Crew Reintra, playing Drake, Ugly's father. Crew was an animated joy, providing the sometimes harsh voice of society.
Last, but not least, by any means, is Natalie Thomas. She did not just play a cat; she actually made the transformation.
The set was an accomplishment unto itself. Designed by a student stagecraft class, it included a barn, furniture, and a working waterfall. All of these were built on a scale that dwarfed the actors, and contributed to the theatrical illusion. Not only did The Academy of New Church have such a stunning set, they understood how to manage it. The set changes were seamless, a nod to their almost invisible stage crew. Sound must also be praised for its timing with the various cues required by the script.
If at any time in our history it is important to remember that "it takes all kinds to make a world," it is now. Our country is faced by all sorts of challenges regarding the "outsider." A performance like this should be a reminder to us all that we have in our power the ability to accept all sorts, and to help them grow.