Honk!, a musical based on Hans Christian Andersen's story, "The Ugly Duckling," gets its first U.S. airing Feb. 12-March 5 at the Helen Hayes Performing Arts Center in Nyack, New York. Alison Fraser and Stephen DeRosa are among the cast notables in this family-oriented show, whose English original is up for a London Olivier Award for Best Musical this year.
The book and lyrics to Honk! are by Anthony Drewe and music by George Stiles. The team previously wrote Just So, which was originally produced at Newbury's Watermill Theatre and subsequently at London's Tricycle Theatre, under the auspices of Cameron Mackintosh. More recently, Goodspeed Opera House's Norma Terris Theatre in Chester, Connecticut staged a revised version.
Earlier versions of Honk! were seen at Newbury's Watermill Theatre (in 1993) and the Bay Street Theatre in New York (in 1995). Another production of the show was seen at Landor Theatre, a fringe theatre above a pub in Clapham, South London, this past autumn. The London Honk!, directed by Julia McKenzie, plays at the Royal National's Olivier Theatre.
The Andersen story tells of a duck -- he's actually nicknamed "Ugly" -- who feels tormented by his family and decides to go off on adventures of his own. He then meets up with a dangerous cat, a domesticated hen and a swan who changes his life.
Fraser, whose New York musical appearances have included Romance/Romance and The Secret Garden (two Tony nominations), as well as March of the Falsettos, The Green Heart and Swingtime Canteen, plays the mother duck. DeRosa, who earned raves for his work in last season's Off-Broadway revival of The Mystery of Irma Vep, is the Cat. Gavin Creel stars as Ugly, with Evalyn Baron (a Les Miz Mme. Thenardier) playing the Swan. Also in the cast are Melissa Rain Anderson, Nancy Anderson, Stephen De Paul, Jill Geddes and Michael Mandell. Scott Wise, one of the best-known male gypsies in the theatre, co choreographs the musical with John MacInnis. Wise won a featured actor Tony for his show-stopping dancing in 1989's Jerome Robbins' Broadway. He was also nominated for his performance as State Fair's lady's man reporter Pat Gilbert. Directing Honk! is Gordon Greenberg, who previously staged Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat for the Hayes Center.
Designing the Hayes Honk! are Jeff Croiter (lighting), Peter Fitzgerald (sound), Dawn Robyn Petrlik (costumes) and James Youmans, who co-designed the set with Petrlik.
Tickets to Honk! range $24.50-$38.50. Honk! plays at the Helen Hayes PAC, 117 Main Street in Nyack. For information call (914) 358-6333.
It should be noted that Honk! is completely unrelated to the avant garde musical Squonk, now on Broadway, nor is it related to Everything's Ducky, Bill Russell and Henry Krieger's own updating of "The Ugly Duckling," which is currently having a hit West Coast run at TheatreWorks of Palo Alto.
-- By David Lefkowitz
and Mark Shenton