Honk! It's the definitive fairy-tale; an age old story about acceptance, friendship and love in spite of differences. So it's no coincidence that even 170 years after it was first penned by Hans Christian Andersen, almost everyone over the age of about five would know the story of The Ugly Duckling. In their colourful, fun-filled and energetic production of the musical adaptation of the story, Honk!, Tudor Musical Comedy Society do their damnedest to bring the heart-warming tale to life. Max Thompson-Brooks is suitably bashful as Ugly and plays the protagonist with a charming vulnerability with a nice stage presence. His performance is all the more impressive given he is just 15 years old. This was his first show with the society and on this evidence it will certainly not be his last.
As his parents Drake and Ida, Paul Lumsden and Paula O’Hare are the production’s shining lights. Lumsden plays Drake with a booming charm and humour and a strong vocal that was delightful from start to finish. His cameo as the cockney Bullfrog later in the show was equally enjoyable and funny. It’s Lumsden’s 20th year performing in the area and you can tell; he so very comfortable on stage – a pleasure to watch. O’Hare too was excellent. She has a beautifully effortless voice and really lights up the stage as Ugly's adoring mother. There's a lovely chemistry between her and Thompson-Brooks.
A slightly long first act comes to a colourful close before Sarah Clarke and Carly Hyland kick off the second act in style. The pair make an excellent twosome, Hyland as Lowbutt, the frightfully middle class hen, and Clarke as her equally snooty cat companion Queniee. Hyland in particular has a lovely poise and really brought out the comedy in her lines.
Elsewhere Alan Waldron is perfect as the sonorous and majorly Grey-lag and Mia Turley as his young sidekick Dot has a confidence beyond her years, while Nathan Rock is entertaining as the sly Cat who is always finding new ways to try and eat Ugly.
As the familiar tale unfolds, Ugly’s young siblings add colour and humour, while scene changes were for the most part very smoothly done with nice interludes; including some glow in the dark puppetry when Ugly takes a dive.
There's certainly no shortage of talent in the society but if there is one slight problem with the show it is the story. The Ugly Duckling is of course a children's fairy-tale but at the risk of stating the obvious, like the story, the musical is just a little juvenile and uneventful for adult audiences.
That's not the society's fault though. They've cast and delivered the production just about as well as it could be performed. In truth this is a show to take your kids to and enjoy through them more than it is a show for adults. But there's no harm at all in good family fun and director Faye O’Leary and her team have plenty to be proud of.
Love Midlands Theatre
Sharing the latest theatre news and reviews around the Midlands.