Honk! Jr., is a musical retelling of the fairy tale, The Ugly Duckling. Here, the Young Australian Broadway Chorus has whittled things down even further, making a thoroughly entertaining show that’s very lean in its running time (just 60 minutes).
Duck parents-to-be, Ida (Emily Svarnias) and Drake (Dean Gild) anxiously await the hatching of their eggs. However, one egg is a little different to the others and sure enough, once cracked, the odd-looking occupant called, Ugly (David Duketis), doesn’t fare any better. He honks when the rest of his family quacks, and runs away. He gets lost, so does his darnedest to get back home, but he should be okay. After all, his new best friend, the scheming Cat (Joseph Baldwin) surely cares for his wellbeing and will ensure Ugly gets home safe and sound?
This was a fun watch for many reasons, such as the sharp ensemble work where Jacqui Green has choreographed 40+ cast members moving on and around the set at the same time for a multitude of musical numbers, as well as the costume mashups of animal metaphors and Hollywood – both the glamour and the demure – by designer, Jennifer McKenzie.
David Duketis did well in his turn as Ugly. It was nice to see and hear a difference when his character progressed from signet to swan at the end. Dean Gild played the curmudgeon very well as Drake. Joseph Baldwin brought the right level of cheek and menace in his role as the Cat. Looking like he’s on his way to meet Dean Martin for a drink, but riiiiight after he ties someone to railway tracks before playing with his moustache, he showed good focus and presence.
Joseph’s focus was especially on display when standing rigid under a sheet of ‘snow’ near the end that became ever more unsettling with each passing second of absolute stillness. Emily Svarnias gave a wonderful performance as Ida. Great commitment, a confident voice, she never had to bully the audience for their attention, instead earning it every time. Ugly’s journey may hold the story’s moral, but Emily’s performance was the story’s heart.
After a few more days in Melbourne, Honk! Jr. pops up again in March as part of the Adelaide Fringe Festival, where they deserve a good crowd for what is a very charming hour of family theatre.
The Lawler – Southbank Theatre, 140 Southbank Boulevard, Southbank (Melbourne)
Performance: Saturday 21 January 2017 – 7.30pm
Season continues to 28 January 2017
Information and Bookings: www.honk-jr.com.au
Image: Cast of Honk! Jr. – courtesy of the Young Australian Broadway Chorus
Review: David Collins