note: entire contents copyright 2009 by Beverly Creasey
George Stiles and Anthony Drewe’s cheeky barnyard musical, HONK! (based on Hans Christian Anderson’s THE UGLY DUCKLING) is getting a high flying production at Wheelock Family Theatre (playing through Feb. 28th) Director Jane Staab’s energized cast includes some of Boston’s top performers—working side by side with a passel of talented kids as fish, ducklings and assorted fauna. The musical will appeal to children for its silly antics but adults will find it refreshingly irreverent…and vegetarians (like me) will be overjoyed with its pro-animal stance: All the creatures on the farm know that “people are bad news!” Poor Mayor Turkey (Gary Thomas Ng) is positively phobic over the thought of Thanksgiving.
Aimee Doherty is sublime as the doting mother duck who produces a brood which includes an odd looking, oversized hatchling. She refuses to give up on him because he’s different, even though everyone else disapproves, especially her less than helpful husband (Mark Linehan). Doherty can break your heart with a weepy like “Every Tear A Mother Cries” and triumph with a transcendent mother and child reunion.
Cheo Bourne is magnificent as the exuberant signet mistaken for a duckling. There are several show stopping numbers in HONK! but Bourne’s gorgeous love song about another swan, “Now I’ve Seen You” will leave you breathless.
Scott Severance and company strut the heck out of a hilarious “Wild Goose Chase” and Peter Carey has a hopping good time as a saucy song and dance frog. Sarah deLima makes a grande dame of a fowl, Jaime Montesano a magnificent lap cat and Brian Richard Robinson a nasty tomcat of a villain (who croons the Sondheimish “Play With Your Food”). Music director Jon Goldberg gets terrific singing from the whole menagerie. I was worried that the smallest of audience members might get restless in the long first act but I heard nary a “peep!”