2005-11-10 / Front Page

JCT’s ‘HONK!’ has lessons for all

A fowl experience in pure entertainment
By Sam Bari

JCT’s ‘HONK!’ has lessons for all

Jenna Regan plays the mother duck while John Baldwin is the father duck. Jenna Regan plays the mother duck while John Baldwin is the father duck. The Jamestown Community Theatre’s production of of the British musical “HONK!” opens tomorrow — Friday, Nov. 11 — at the Community Center.

Monday’s first dress rehearsal of the production offered an exciting preview through a magical window of the troupe’s upcoming presentation.

The cast of 64 performers sang, danced, and acted their way into the hearts of a limited audience in this brilliant twist on Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Ugly Duckling,” by composer George Styles and writer Anthony Drew.

Despite a couple of missing cast members, Artistic and Play Director Mary Schachtel Wright, like a benevolent field general, inspired, guided, and directed her enthusiastic and talented troupe.

The cast sang their hearts out, danced their feet off, and dazzled the audience with pure entertainment served up in generous portions of high-energy and joy.

The funny parts of this musical are hilarious, the sad parts generate tears, and the characters warm your heart and touch your soul with talented performances, stunning costumes, inventive staging, and wonderful music.

Director Mary Schachtel Wright discusses staging with Kay Worden, who plays “Her Ladyship, Grace.” Photos by Jeff McDonough Director Mary Schachtel Wright discusses staging with Kay Worden, who plays “Her Ladyship, Grace.” Photos by Jeff McDonough “HONK!” is not a children’s play, nor does it have an adult-oriented theme; it is entertainment as it should be, designed for anyone who refuses to grow old.

“HONK!” is a story about respecting those who may appear to be unusual or seem different. In our progressively diverse society, where we purport to practice tolerance, bullying, prejudice, homophobia, racism, sexism, ageism, and other “isms” unfortunately still exist.

In “HONK!”, our feathered friends and a few other animals take on human characteristics. With satire, humor, sensitivity, and uplifting music, they have created a heartwarming musical, where being different is celebrated, not scorned.

In the grand tradition of British humor, the show is packed with wit, whimsy, wry jokes, and double entendres. Matt Bowles, a JCT veteran of fifteen seasons, is charming as Ugly, the misunderstood “duckling.” Jenna Regan, another JCT veteran, is Ugly’s protective mother, Ida, and Michael Liebhauser brilliantly plays the devilish Cat, who is bent on devouring the ever-naive Ugly.

The fishes dance in the duck’s pond when the ducklings go swimming. The fishes dance in the duck’s pond when the ducklings go swimming. Ida is horrified, as are her friends and neighbors, when Ugly hatches. She must admit that, “This one is different.” Ugly slips away from his hesitant family and becomes lost in the woods, pursued by the voracious Cat and guilt-ridden Ida, who is determined to reclaim her offspring, despite his homely appearance.

“HONK!” is about all the things we hope our kids learn and grownups need to be reminded of: Different is okay. Accept others for who they are, and not what they look like. Inside, we’re all a lot alike, and this duck yard would be pretty boring if we all looked the same.

“As usual, it was a large task finding a musical that was both suitable and also new territory for JCT,” said Wright. “We wanted to do something new; we didn’t want to revive one of our previous productions. So, after many readings and people exclaiming, ‘Hey, have ya ever thought about doing…’ or ‘What about…?’, we discovered, well, take a deep breath, and as you let it out, just say, HONK! That’s it!”, she continued. “We decided that the Jamestown Community Theatre will present the Rhode Island premier of the award-winning musical and complete version of ‘HONK!’”

The young ducklings in “HONK!” take to the stage, well . . . like ducks to water. The young ducklings in “HONK!” take to the stage, well . . . like ducks to water. The first production of “HONK!” was in Newberry, England, in 1993, followed by the National Theatre production in London in 1999. It received the 2000 Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Musical, beating out competitors, among which were “Mamma Mia” and “The Lion King.” It went on to win the FNB Award in South Africa, and the Elliot Norton Award in the U.S.A.

Patty Vandal, the JCT musical director, has worked hard to bring out the best in everyone over the years. It is with great sadness that JCT will be losing her as musical director after this show. “She has been with the theatre since the beginning, and no one is more committed or has her ability to work well with both kids and adults. She will be missed,” said Wright. She also plays Queenie the Cat with Hope Darigan who plays her friend, Lowbutt the Goose. Both are very funny in the two songs they perform in the show.

Michael Liebhauser is the Cat who invites Ugly, played by Matt Bolles, to lunch. Photos by Jeff McDonough Michael Liebhauser is the Cat who invites Ugly, played by Matt Bolles, to lunch. Photos by Jeff McDonough The JCT is happy to welcome John Baldwin — Drake, Ida’s husband, in his first play with the JCT. He brought his daughter in to audition, and she became a Duckling. By the time he left the auditions, he was cast as the Drake. He hadn’t come in to try out, but Wright snagged him on the spot. Baldwin hasn’t been in a theatrical production since high school, but he hasn’t lost his talent or love for the stage.

Another newcomer of note is Jacqueline Richardson, who plays Penny the swan. Wright describes her as diligent, talented and takes everything she does seriously. “I think she is an inspiration and a mentor to kids, but also for adults,” Wright said. “She is always acting, never lets her role go for a minute, whether she is alone on stage, in a duet, or a member of a chorus. I love working with her. She glows,” Wright added.

The part of the Cat, portrayed by Michael Liebhauser also deserves praise. Eleven years old, this veteran of “Oliver,” “Sound of Music,” and “Bugsy Malone,” in which he played the lead gangster, is no stranger to the stage. He is not just an aspiring actor; he is a working actor. His future will be measured in degrees of success. “Anyone who wants to offer me a job as an actor — I’m there,” said the young thespian.

Liebhauser sings, dances, and recites his lines with the brilliance of a rising star, said Wright.

Do not miss out on seeing this fowl play. Make sure and take the entire family. Performance times are: Friday, Nov. 11, Saturday, Nov. 12, Sunday, Nov. 13, Friday, Nov. 18, Saturday, Nov. 19. Friday and Saturday performances are at 7 p.m., Sunday matinee is at 4 p.m.

Although there will not be a second Sunday weekend performance, HONK! will have a special Family Night performance on Thursday, Nov. 17, at 6:30 p.m. with reduced ticket prices.

Tickets can be purchased in Jamestown at Baker’s Pharmacy, Secret Garden, and the Conanicut Marine Store, in Newport at Pleasant Surprise, and in Wickford at Midnight Sun.

Tickets are $12 for adults purchased ahead of time and $15 at the door. For senior adults, age 65 and older and children 12 years and younger, tickets are $7 in advance and $10 at the door.

All tickets for the Nov. 17 Family Night performance are just $5.

There will also be a special dress rehearsal that is free to seniors. All tickets for that performance will be given out at the Jamestown Meal Site. The time of that show will be announced at the Senior Center.

“HONK!” is produced by islanders Laura Dussault and Bambi Wood by special arrangement with Music Theatre International.

All crew members and support staff are Jamestowners who commit their time and talent to make the JCT possible.

Return to top