Youngsters do lovely job on story of ugly duckling

Talented cast, staff of Children's Theatre offer `Honk!' musical at the Pascal Center

Review

March 24, 2006|By MARY JOHNSON | MARY JOHNSON,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

At last weekend's opening of the musical Honk! the Children's Theatre of Annapolis folks again proved that they know how to find and present some of today's brightest musicals for young people.

Their talented production staff is headed by Jose de la Mar, making his Children's Theatre directing debut with this show, displaying a sure touch with his young cast.

Also debuting at Children's Theatre with this production is music director Alicia de la Garza, a 2004 graduate of North County High School and a full-time music major at the Community College of Baltimore County's Essex campus.

Katy Schronce, who choreographed CTA's last show, Seussical the Musical, returns as choreographer for this show. Acting as student assistant director is 16-year-old Joshua Konick, a junior at Broadneck High School and veteran of several CTA productions.

The play continues through Sunday at Anne Arundel Community College's Pascal Center for the Performing Arts.

This George Stiles-Anthony Drewe musical first opened in England in 1993 and was voted best new musical in Great Britain in 2000. Based on the classic Hans Christian Andersen story of the ugly duckling, Honk! tells the story of a young duckling named Ugly who is teased about his awkward appearance by his cute, yellow-feathered siblings and other ordinary-looking animals. Lured by the Cat who invites him for lunch, Ugly wanders off from his family. Suspecting that he could become his host's duck a l'orange, Ugly gets away from the Cat and has a series of adventures as he tries to find his mother, Ida, who meanwhile is searching for him.

The message of this show geared to young children is accepting what is different and relying on a mother's enduring love. The score reinforces the simple plot with several outstanding songs, including Ugly's poignant "Different," sung by Ida and him; "The Joy of Motherhood," sung by Ida and Maureen; Cat's song, "Play with Your Food,"; and "Warts and All," sung by Bullfrog and accompanied by little "froglets" in the second act.

Children's Theatre's version features 14-year-old stage veteran Scott Simpson, a Severna Park High School freshman, as Ugly. Young Simpson manages to look appropriately awkward and projects a touching insecurity while conveying his character's ability to persevere. His singing voice is sometimes a bit wobbly, which adds to his portrayal of the role.

As his mother, Ida, Lauren Henkel, a freshman at Archbishop Spalding High School, projects a steadfastness and maturity beyond her years. A poised young woman who, motionless, awaits her opening cue, Lauren is a convincing actress with a voice that does justice to her songs.

Fifth-grader Zachary Johnson, 10, is properly evil and funny as the villainous Cat.

Playing Maureen and stealing every scene she is in, 11-year-old Carly Snyder is a tiny girl with a huge voice who brings life to the show early in Act 1 when she belts out "The Joy of Motherhood" with Lauren Henkel's Ida.

Another show-stopper is Andrew Adams, 14, who enthusiastically plays Bullfrog. He delivers the show's big number, "Warts and All," where he is joined by Ugly and an ensemble of lively little frogs that make this number the high point of the show.

Honk! is a true ensemble piece with all cast members delivering their best. As is usually the case with CTA productions, the children's show is performed by a young cast from across Anne Arundel County. Honk! features 33 children ages 8 to 14 who display varying levels of talent that add up to unpretentious, charming entertainment that can be enjoyed by all ages.

The success of Children's Theatre of Annapolis is reflected in the fact that Vice President Bill Smith announced at last weekend's performances that with about half the funds raised, CTA is moving ahead with its goal of building a $900,000 children's theater at the former Nike site on Bay Head Road in Broadneck.

Seats are available for tonight's 7:30 p.m. performance, tomorrow's 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. shows, and Sunday's final performance at 2 p.m. For tickets, call CTA's hot line at 410-757-2281 or e-mail boxoffice@childrenstheatreofannapolis.org.

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