Robert E. Lee High School Honk!By Cappies • Apr 20th, 2011 • Category: Cappies
What do a family of ducks, a gaggle of kazoo-playing geese, and a group of dancing froglettes have in common? They’re all part of Robert E. Lee’s production of Honk!
Honk! — so named for the very un-quack-like sound made by its protagonist — was written by Anthony Drewe and George Stiles as a musical adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Ugly Duckling. The musical premiered in England in 1993 before opening on West End in 1999. Honk! tells the story of Ugly, an awkward and unattractive duckling who is isolated by all except his loving mother Ida. Lured away from the duckyard by a sly cat, Ugly struggles to find his way back home, encountering a variety of farm animals along the way.
Honk! may be a children’s show, but Robert E. Lee’s production was far from juvenile. The cast was given the challenge of bringing the musical’s spunky characters and emotional ballads to life with maturity and enthusiasm and, for the most part, succeeded. While individual actors grasped their characters well, some ensemble numbers suffered because of a lack of characterization and energy. Due to both sound issues and an occasionally too loud orchestra, some actors were also difficult to hear.
Nathanael Jones charmed the audience, portrayed the delightfully awkward Ugly with both hilarious gawkiness and genuine emotion. Jones also showcased strong vocals, particularly in his reprise of “Different.” Johanna Olson gave a strong performance as Ida, the no-nonsense mother of five. She created palpable relationships with each of the actors who played her ducklings, including a strong mother-son relationship with Jones.
Victoria Murray and Hannah Hidle provided one of the production’s highlights as Queenie and Lowbutt, snobby domesticated animals brought together by a common interest in needlepoint. While several actors suffered from a lack of energy, Murray and Hidle made strong character choices and performed “It Takes All Sorts” with gusto. Joshua Grant also made a hilarious appearance as an “aesthetically challenged” bullfrog who urges Ugly to accept his flaws (“Warts and All”).
Susan Swicegood’s unique and colorful costumes evoked animal characteristics without forcing actors to don fur and feathers. Colorful eye makeup by Caitlin Sweeney added to the illusion without overpowering the actors’ faces.
Although it remained stationary throughout the entire show, the well-designed set (Sean DeWitte, Robbie Labadie) created several levels and allowed for transitions to several different locations. Instead of drastically changing the set, the production relied on well-executed lighting cues (Darien Yount) to show both change in location and the passage of time.
Despite some technical difficulties, Robert E. Lee High School presented a mostly energetic production that reminded its audience members of an important truth: Honk! may be a children’s musical, but its messages of acceptance and the value of inner beauty ring especially true for high school students. After all, “it takes all sorts to make a world!”
by Elisabeth Bloxam of Westfield High School
Photos by John Berting
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/6457.