HONK!, presented by Pemads, featuring Litha Hewitt-Coleman, Minkie Ludik, Damien Anderson and Arthur Daniels. Directed by Greg Everard. (Little Theatre, until December 14) Reviewed by Brett Adkins
DIFFERENT is a word that pops up regularly in this zany but charming production based on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Ugly Duckling, and it proves to perfectly sum up its captivating qualities.
It may be based on a story we all know well, but this take, penned by Anthony Drewe, conveys its message in a unique fashion that ensures we rethink our attitudes in a brand new light.
In the end, acceptance doesn’t really rely on any outside help. Accepting yourself is more key.
Given that we are entering the festive season when thoughts of family and a sense of belonging are at the forefront of our minds, the choice of such a light but moving musical comedy could not be more ideal.
Director Greg Everard packs every scene with a spectacle of goodies that will delight much younger theatre-goers, while the wry and sometimes innocently saucy humour will be appreciated and tickle the funny bones of older folk.
As the star of the show who isn’t – newly-hatched outsider Ugly – Litha Hewitt-Coleman embraces the role from the instant he breaks out of his speckled shell in a colourless school uniform, in stark contrast to his sunny, brightly decked siblings.
With consistently well-modulated delivery, strong singing voice and likeable demeanour, the audience can’t but immediately warm to him as he embarks on his first swim with his mother, Ida – a solid and perfectly pitched performance by the confident Minkie Ludik.
Damien Anderson invests the role of the upbeat but confused father duck, Drake, with plenty of jollity while Arthur Daniels as the conniving Cat – whose invitation to have Ugly over for dinner results in a hilarious game of literal cat and duck – possesses neat feline shrewdness.
He just needs to slow down and savour those delicious lines a bit more. The leads are ably supported by an enthusiastic ensemble cast who relish the material and make the most of their every appearance.
Musical directors Debbie Everard and Wendy Doubell have done a terrific job in bringing the George Stiles score to sparkling life and the singers on stage are backed by a highly competent troupe of musicians in the pit who provide a seamless flow for the melodies.
True to the theme of being different, choreographer Andrea Morris has been innovative in her construction of the many dance sequences which, by the very nature of the piece, require a definite degree of quirkiness.
The fun sets and costuming – bubbling with vivid colour and lighting – add to the rich animated feel. The holidays are almost here and a visit to this farm duck yard should definitely be on the family itinerary.