Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Review Honk!

Music by George Stiles
Lyrics and Book by Anthony Drewe

 A Quacking Good Show!

The little headlights of TLT's motorised companion lit up on hearing we were going to see Honk!.

If it proved to be a somewhat different show than our cute little jalopy with its own rootin' tootin' horn expected - it reminded TLT of a friend's more salacious tale of enticing her husband to see "Daisy Pulls It Off" ;) - we pair of theatre animals still settled down to a highly enjoyable farmyard evening at the Union Theatre.

Celebrating the 20th anniversary of Stiles and Drewe's likeable little show, the headlights only grew dim to stifle a little joyous tear as the ugly duckling, instead of becoming a feline villain's main meal and dessert, got his Happy Ending just deserts.

Going back to the original Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale for this adaptation with a few variations, the show's book has echoes of Disney's Pinocchio in Honk's wide-eyed naivety along with the ethos of The Muppet Show's Bein' Green.

It even at one point has a throwaway references to Frank Loesser's musical about difference, The Most Happy Fella and a Salvation Army vibe reminiscent of  Guys and Dolls. with shades of the underwater scene of Bedknobs and Broomsticks.

The songs and the inventive design (set: Emily Bestow, costumes Rosemary Elliott-Dancs and puppets by Phoebe Hill) are the most successful elements of this production directed by Andy Room, along with a committed cast.

The book's use of corny gags is workmanlike rather than inspired, although there are some nice twists and turns to the story itself and it is a delightful children's and family show.

Hatching fully formed Ugly (Liam Vincent-St Bride) is a Mummy's boy - er - duckling wrapped in an outsize grey wool jumper and woolly hat topping the spectacles peeping out beneath.

There's strong work from Ellie Nunn as doughty Mommy duck Ida with a Blitz spirit and a voice with emotional punch in Every Tear A Mother Cries. Sam Sugerman makes for a suitably sleazy ginger tom baddie looking for lunch (and breakfast, tea and supper).

Different, Honk's plea for acceptance, has become almost a standard with its touching message

"No wonder they make fun of me/Life's harder when you're odd./But, different isn't scary/Different is no threat,/And though I'm still their brother,/ They forget/I didn't choose to look this way/I didn't want to be unique/I don't like these grubby feathers/And I hate my stubby beak ..."

Bullfrog (Robert Pearce) selling a version of a militant amphibian newspaper, Ribbit, brings plenty of fun and foot tappping together with a cute baby frog backing choir in Warts And All.

Meanwhile stiff upper lip Greylag (Leon Scott) and air crew chorus have a ball with the stirring Wild Goose Chase affectionately guying a certain type of  British war film.

With resourceful use of actor/musicians alongside the small band led by musical director Oli Rew and make-do-and-mend values in the ingenious costumes and props, this is a canny way to introduce kids to the magic of theatre and music.

How could we resist this sympathetic parody of wartime spirit with, after a series of adventures, the wall dividing Honk from his siblings torn down and the subsequent  re-union of Honk with his Mum and his real roots?

It's an amber/green light for a show which manages to stand on its own two webbed feet with its heartwarming take on The Ugly Duckling.

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