Animals reign supreme in Honk! Jr., a musical adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s story The Ugly Duckling. A huge cast of 43 make a talented, big voiced choir that knock the ensemble numbers out of the park. They are a joy to watch and a pleasure to listen to.
Set in the countryside, the production is set in the countryside and features a cygnet mistaken for an ugly duckling, rejected by all but his mother, Ida. He is the fifth of five eggs to hatch and decidedly different in appearance. Thus, he is singled out and picked on. On the farm where he is brought up, a sly tomcat salivates over the prospect of making a meal out of him. But circumstances conspire to see him lost for several months, which prove nothing if not adventurous. During this time he meets all manner of animals, including geese, swans and bullfrogs. “Ugly” grows up and changes. He is on a journey of self-discovery. This is a story about tolerance, forgiveness and respect, which is also good-humoured family fun.
The costuming is a real treat. For instance, the geese look regal and resplendent in what appear to be dark coloured onesies, complete with white scarves, goggles and feathers. The frogs, too, are quite a sight in bib and brace green with caps and goggles. With book and lyrics by Anthony Drewe and music by George Stiles, Honk! premiered on the West End in 1999 and won the Olivier Award for Best Musical the year after. It is not hard to see why because it is a real crowd pleaser.
Honk! Jr. by Young Australian Broadway Chorus is a treat for all ages. It is playing at Southbank Theatre, The Lawler until 28th January.
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television