It won awards in the West End when it was first performed, yet Honk! is a musical that’s not as well known as it should be. But through the vision and imagination of Dot Clarke’s Inspirations, it came to Chesterfield’s Pomegranate last week.
The storyline is based on the classic tale of the Ugly Duckling, and like most traditional stories it has a message: don’t run away from being different. This version also has some great jokes: the frog gets a human in its throat; there’s a whole new meaning to down in the mouth; at the end Ugly gets the signet ring (signet – cygnet – get it?) – and that’s only a small sample.
Ugly was Mark McDougall, who did a fine line in gangly and awkward. Shauna Kimberley was feisty and tuneful as Ida the duck, his devoted mum, who followed him to the ends of the earth – the other side of the vicarage anyway – when he ran away from the bullying and disdain of the other poultry.
It all ended happily, of course – don’t all the best stories? – and even the farmyard turkey survived Christmas. Ugly had plenty of adventures along the way, encountering diminutive ducks, formation-flying geese complete with welcoming cabin crew, cosy hens, dancing frogs, even a few fish and some snowflakes. Best of all was a malevolent but oddly engaging cat, with bags of attitude and stage presence; Josh Mason will go far.
A few of the young voices found the music a bit of a challenge, but energy and enthusiasm go a long way, and Inspirations have plenty of both.