Honk!, George Stiles and Anthony Drewe’s musical version of Hans Christian Anderson's The Ugly Duckling, will receive a 20th anniversary revival at London's Union Theatre. It will begin performances March 29 prior to an official opening April 1, for a run through April 22.
Telling the story of Ugly, a plucky little bird who gets picked on by the other farmyard animals because he’s different, the show follows him on an adventure across the marsh, meeting an array of characters who teach him that it takes all sorts to make a world, and that he is much more than just his fowl looks.
The cast is led by Liam Vincent-Kilbride as Ugly, with Emily Goad (as Maureen/Henrietta/Penny/ Lowbutt/Pinkfoot), Emma Jane Morton (as Grace/Dot/Queenie/Mother Swann), Ellie Nunn (as Ida, Ugly’s mother), Robert Pearce (as Turkey/Bullfrog/Jack Daw), Leon Scott (as Drake, Ugly’s father), and Sam Sugarman (as Cat).
First premiered at Newbury's Watermill Theatre, its original London production at the National Theatre won the 2000 Olivier Award for Best New Musical, beating out The Lion King and Mamma Mia! to the title. It has since gone on to receive over 8,000 productions around the world.
In a press statement, Drewe commented, “Hans Christian Andersen has been described as ‘a tall, ugly boy with a big nose and big feet, and when he grew up with a beautiful singing voice and a passion for the theatre he was cruelly teased and mocked by other children.’ Sadly, cruel teasing and mocking is still prevalent today whenever someone is perceived as being ‘different,’ and it’s not only children who perpetrate this injustice. Some truly ugly attitudes revealed themselves in the lead up to the Brexit vote, and recent events in the U.S. have only served to shake our wonderfully diverse, multicultural society.
“When George and I wrote Honk! it was, in part, in response to the reaction that my young mixed–race nephews were receiving at school, because their skin was of a different colour. But bullying is not limited to racial diversity. A recent study in the U.K. found that 45 percent of 13 to 18-year-olds have experienced bullying by the age of 18, with the majority saying the primary reason was their physical appearance. It’s a sobering fact that 1 in 10 teenagers bullied at school have attempted to commit suicide, and at least half of the suicides among young people are related to bullying. Sadly, it is true that the victims of bullying are most likely to become bullies themselves. Maybe one day this vicious cycle will be broken, then we will all have something to quack about.
“I think the reason Honk! has enjoyed such success and been seen in so many productions around the world is that everyone can relate to the plight of an outsider trying to fit in – we have all felt it at some point in our lives. We wanted to write a musical about acceptance – a celebration of being different, where diversity is welcomed and embraced, and where everyone plays their own part in a multicultural community, albeit on a duck pond.”
Honk! is produced by Paul Virides and Lan Wilkinson for Dot By Dot Productions, directed by Andy Room, with Oli Rew as musical director, choreography by Lily Howkins, design by Anna Reid, and puppet design by Phoebe Hill.
To book tickets, visit Honkthemusical.co.uk