by Cheryl LaMee-Ludwig
There are definite signs of spring at Wellesley Middle School. Sixth graders from every house are blooming and hatching in the upcoming musical production, Honk. Originally titled Aesthetically Challenged Farmyard Fowl, Honk tells the story of a duckling called “Ugly.” While this may evoke Hans Christian Anderson-related memories, audience members will have to pay close attention in Anthony Drewe’s version. It’s packed with quick wit.
For many of the 43 eleven and twelve year olds, Honk is their first production, but for the two lead characters, Ida and Ugly, it is anything but. In fact, this is Carl Richardson (Ugly’s) third show, also having recently acted in the Wiz and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. This show is different from his others, since fellow cast members also attend his school. “All of the other productions I have been in have had actors from many schools and age groups. This is fun, and I have made new friends through Honk.” Mother Duck, who is known to her teachers as Zoe Lloyd, also describes the show as “fun.” While this is Zoe’s first lead role, she has been studying theater with Cindy Wright in her Wellesley Youth Theater. She started just last year, but her compadre, the Turkey, played by Emily Buff, has been with Wright since grade two. Also with years of experience, Jacob Feiner is performing in his fifth musical production – and his second time in Honk. When asked if he is enjoying it for the second time around, the answer was affirmative. “I just love to sing.”
Apparently Feiner is not the only one who loves to warble. During the last early release Wednesday a gaggle of Honk actors was at the Town Hall duck pond, belting out “Poultry Tale” to the semi-assembled avian audience. Why? They wanted to see if they could elicit a response. No telling if they did or didn’t, but they certainly had a laugh.
Laughter is often heard on the set of Honk, sometimes due to cast member foibles. Take, for instance, the day when Jay Bird (played by Austin “Paco” Ludwig) and the ducklings were given the direction to ease themselves off the stage and into the water. Not easy at all, they actually fell off. Fortunately, all fowl were fine and the show played on. Another funny moment came when Marlin Rooks who plays Greylag was supposed to be protecting Ugly (Richardson) but actually shoved Ugly who then fell down. Just as comical to Sarah Johnson and Lindsay Petralia is when two sixth graders try to pretend like husband and wife, as is the case with Ida and Drake. These two also giggle at the on-stage romance between Ugly and Penny.
While all the giggling may be tough to tame, Executive Director Leah Fine and Musical Director Holly Sullivan no doubt have both challenges and opportunities with this sixth grade brood. Rather than having an enormous cast mostly with bit parts, Ms. Fine made the call to have fewer students play varied roles. Allison Joyce, for example, plays a fish, a goose and one of the Blizzard Girls (who call themselves Britney, Britney Britney and Britney Britney Britney). Joyce does not mind multiple costume changes, so long as “everybody has fun. No one cares how many lines you have or how much you sing.”
Come see these birds take flight in Drewe’s poultry tale April 2nd and 3rd at 7pm. Tickets go on sale at 6pm and are $5 at the door. Since all seats are general admission, the early bird gets the worm, or in this case, the best seat in the auditorium.