Wild Horse stages musical version of ‘Ugly Duckling’
Wild Horse Children’s Theater presents “Honk! Jr.,” beginning Friday. The award-winning musical, written by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, transforms Hans Christian Andersen’s classic tale of the Ugly Duckling into a modern musical comedy appropriate for everyone in the family.
“This is a musical version of the ‘Ugly Duckling,'” said Carol Scott, executive director and founder of Wild Horse and the director for this production. “It’s about bullying and intolerance. It’s about learning to shine even though you’re different. It’s a timely subject matter told in a light manner.”
“Honk! Jr.” tells the story of Ugly, who is shunned because of his odd, gawky looks and struggles for acceptance and understanding from his family and the other animals in the barnyard. Separated from the farm and pursued by a hungry cat, Ugly must find his way, while his loving mother, Ida, searches for him. Along his journey, he not only discovers his true beauty and how to be comfortable in his own feathers, but he also finds love and acceptance, regardless of what others think.
While reading up on the play and its background, Scott discovered that Andersen considered “The Ugly Duckling” an autobiography. The now famous writer was bullied and teased as a child.
“He was the ugly duckling,” she said.
The cast of “Honk! Jr.” includes about 70 children, ages 5-18, from around the region.
“We do have 5-year-olds who are cutting their teeth on performing,” she said. They perform in a frog number “that is really, really cute.”
Although the players are young, adults will find entertainment for themselves too.
“It’s for all ages. Some of the jokes are gonna go way over kids’ heads,” she said. “It’s got a maturity to it.”
The young actors have been rehearsing for the production since January. Scott said “Honk! Jr.” is more difficult than many of the “junior” plays they do.
“It’s difficult music, more Broadway style (which is more difficult than the Disney productions) with difficult harmonies, syncopations,” she said, noting that the “superior talent” of the cast has been up to the challenge.
Another difference in this production is that the animals are personified, not literal.
“Costumes suggest the animals they represent, but they’re not animals,” Scott said.
“Honk! Jr.” will be performed for two weekends (instead of the company’s usual three weekends) at 7 p.m. May 6, 7, 13, 14 and 4 p.m. May 7, 8, 14 and 15 at the Children’s Museum of Northern Nevada, 813 N. Carson St.
Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for seniors/students, $5 for ages 12 and under and children 3 and under are free. Tickets are online at wildhorsetheater.com or by calling 887-0438 or at the Children’s Museum of Northern Nevada, 813 N. Carson St.
“We hope people come and it leads to some discussion,” Scott said, “parents and their children and their families. We don’t expect people to go away with a changed life because of the play, but hope the story resonates with some parents and kids and they have discussions about it.”