BWW Review: HONK! at Delaware Theatre Company
HONK! is a musical adaptation of the Hans Christian Anderson story of "The Ugly Duckling". It embodies a message of tolerance and bullying...and as Director Bud Martin suggests in his program notes...'the discourse in our country today is full of bullying, name-calling, racism and anti-immigration". (Provoked by our Narcissist in Chief. My words, not Martin's).
Fun Fact: The message and impact of HONK!? It won the Olivier Award on London's West End in 2000, winning over THE LION KING.
Aisle Say does not normally note composers and lyricists. However, George Stiles and Anthony Drewe deserve special recognition. Not only are the melodies mellifluous, but the unending cascade of clever lyrics relating to the two and four legged characters would make proud the ultimate master of double entendre wordplay; Cole Porter.
Guests are welcomed into a whimsical barnyard set design by Dirk Durossette; rich with vivid pastels and innovative set pieces that fly and guide effortlessly throughout. 5 eggs are about to be hatched; 4 Lilliputian, 1 Brobdingnagian. Birthing from the former are 4 adorable and gleeful children. (Too cute! They are bedecked in colorful converse sneakers)! From the latter comes Ugly (the triple threat Adam Hoyak), sporting glasses made famous by Arnold Stang. (I am REALLY dating myself).
'A Poultry Tale' sung by Drake (Christopher Sapienza) and the ensemble introduces us to this environment of ducks, chickens and sundry barnyard animals. He has a strong voice and captures our attention. Drake, the father, thinks Ugly is a turkey...and not a real good looking one at that. His Mother, Ida (Kim Carson) is not so sure. Carson has a beautiful, resonant voice. Her sincere belief in Ugly throughout the show is evidenced by her confident and convincing acting, especially in her plaintive 'Every Tear A Mother Cries' during her search for her missing son. Carson speaks for all mothers who love their children above all...and never give up on them.
The dramatic tension comes in the character of Cat (Jake Blouch). From his entrance, I could not get Blouch's doppelganger out of my mind; one Tim Curry of ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW. Luckily for the audience teeming with children, Cat was clothed in all black leather (diametrically opposed to Dr. Frank-N-Furter's sartorial display). Blouch has a great voice and a 'cat-like' sinister presence. Visualizing Ugly as a tasty morsel, Cat attempts to seduce (in a Top Chief, easily-digestible sort of way) in the amusing "Play with Your Food". (Blouch was a lead in DTC's cgi mind blower of a show 2 years ago, SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES).
Choreographer and local legend Sonny Leo transformed adults and children alike into accomplished dancers. The insecure Ugly encounters sylph Penny, a beautiful swan (Jenna Pastuszek). She flies away, Ugly is in love with her ("Now I've Seen You"), but is sad because he believes she could never love someone as ugly as himself. Just then, a hippity-hoppity Bullfrog (Newton Buchanan) comes prancing by. Noticing his melancholy mood, BF tells Ugly about how "ugliness" is just a matter of taste and that someone out there will always love you. This interchange leads to the great production number "Warts And All". I gotta think Leo pulled from his dance trunk every genre but Charleston and Fosse in this rousing, uplifting scene. (Speaking of even greater Delaware legends, it was wonderful to see Sonny's Mom, Anna Marie, who has enhanced the lives of countless thousands of dance students).
Rachel Brennan, Maria Konstantinidis and the aforementioned Sapienza and Buchanan played several roles with great charm, energy and...well...childlike enthusiasm. Konstantinidis and Sapienza were especially amusing as stalwart military geese in "Wild Goose Chase'.
HONK! is a special show. Take your children. Take your grandchildren. Take yourself. If you're pregnant, you should go. (some message may percolate through to the next generation). Life lessons abound with every scene, every song.
Through May 12
Delaware Theatre Co. 302.594.1100
Next Up: MIDDLETOWN May 28 - June 2. Sally Struthers stars