Saturday, 29 April 2017

“Honk! Jr” by Spotlight Theatre School
Nottingham Arts Theatre
“Honk! Jr.” is a heart-warming celebration of being different. It’s a musical adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen story The Ugly Duckling. The musical is set in the countryside and features Ugly – a cygnet who is mistaken as an ugly duckling upon falling into his mother's nest and is rejected by everyone but Ida (his mother),
Ugly looks quite a bit different from his duckling brothers and sisters. The other animals on the farm are quick to notice and point this out, despite his mother's protective flapping. Feeling rather foul about himself, the little “duckling” finds himself on an adventure of self-discovery, all the while unknowingly outwitting a very hungry cat. Along the way, Ugly meets a whole flock of unique characters and finds out being different is not a bad thing to be. A great message to send out to anyone of any age.
I must admit, I went to the theatre straight from work and, not to put a finer point on it, I hadn't had the best of days. "Honk Jr" was just what I needed. It lifted me out of my mood and I ended up with an idiotic grin plastered all over my face. Anyone would have thought I was the proud father of one of the kids on stage.
Talking of which......
Spotlight Theatre School have gathered together a wonderful cast of young people with an abundance of talent. How do they remember all those lines, choreography, songs, where to go, what to do?
Maddie Keown is rather wonderful as "Ugly" and I loved the change from the duckling to a swan, a part that had the audience applauding. Great fun to watch.
Ida, the mother, played by Esther Mole. As soon as she opened her mouth to sing, you could tell that she has a future on stage. Her enunciation of the words and phrasing belied her young years. When there was the part where she went off to find "Ugly", she looked really emotional. Esther is a name to look for in the years to come.
As is Joseph Stafford who played the father, Drake. He has a lovely comedy about him which he delivers with a straight face.
The Cat was played by Molly Benner, who I've seen before but what a lovey self assured performance she put in. Totally believable as the nasty old cat who was hoping for a bit of duck l'orange for her tea. A nice powerful set of lungs on her also.
Maureen, Ida's sister was played by Erin Hanby. That family bond was apparent as she showed concern for her missing nephew.
The other ducklings were played by Jacques Sarazin, Jude Beaven, Sophie Benner and Lois Stevenson. Again there's some talent in that quartet and some lovely subtle acting skills being developed in them.
There were loads of other characters who were played by some brilliant young kids and the chicks
were just the cutest kids ever, all wide eyed in what may have been their first taste of the stage and audience appreciation. Let's hope they get a taste of it and continue.
The production team were the best from the Arts Theatre and would take too long , and take up loads of space, but they know who they are. Like little theatre wizards creating magic for us to be in awe of. I just must say though that the stage mangers, Amy Rogers-Gee and Joseph Jk Smith did a brilliant job with the kids and the sets and props. never an easy job and often a job that goes unnoticed and with little recognition.
I listened to the soundtrack but it's only when you see the songs performed do you get the full worth of the songs. The lyrics have a lot messages that we can all, however old we are, take away something.
This is the first time that I had seen "Honk Jr", having missed out last year from being able to see it performed by another theatre group, and I love this show. It gives a serious message out but delivered in such a way that it doesn't preach.
The book and lyrics by Anthony Drewe have some of the corniest, cheesy jokes I've head in a while, well at least since panto, but they worked magic. The music was by George Stiles, infuriatingly catchy.
I may have left work tonight feeling a bit down but thanks to Spotlight Theatre School and those amazing young actors, they sent me home in the bestest of moods.
Thank you Amanda Hall and everyone involved in Spotlight Theatre School, and I can't wait to see these kids grow into fully fledged local actors, in the same way that those chicks hatched and spread their grown up wings.

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