Friday, May 5, 2017

Ann Arbor Civic Theatre's Junior Theatre production of Honk! Jr. delights & moves receptive audience Friday night.

From past experience I've come to expect that an Ann Arbor Civic Theatre performance will be top notch, however, I did not expect to be moved as much as I was by Friday night's production. The Ann Arbor Civic Theatre Junior Theatre production of Honk! Jr. opened to a nearly packed Arthur Miller Theatre located on the UM North campus Friday, May 5, and it is safe to say that no one in attendance left the theatre unmoved.

Honk! Jr, Directed by Denyse Clayton, and book and Lyrics by Anthony Drewe, is a musical adaption of the classic Hans Christian Anderson story, The Ugly Duckling. The mother duck Ida, performed very convincingly by Sara Mattson, after much waiting, finally watches her last duckling emerge from her egg. Several perfectly "normal" little ducklings had already hatched. However, this late hatching little duckling appears to be quite "different" from the rest. The duckling's siblings begin to call the duckling ugly. To make matters worse, the father duckling teases and picks on the little duckling, also. Indeed, the first words uttered by the father duck Drake upon laying eyes on the little duckling is,"Ugh, its a monster." I thought Jeremy Klooster played Drake terrifically.

Shortly thereafter, the "ugly" duckling becomes separated from her family and is indeed, lost. She encounters many creatures, including a crafty cat that would love to eat her, and a charming, self deprecating frog. Finally, she meets a lovely swan.

In the end, the ugly duckling realizes that everyone is special and deserves respect and love. In fact, in a wonderful twist of events, the duckling discovers that, actually, she is a swan herself! Thank goodness for happy endings.

The musical direction by George Stiles was fantastic as it mirrored each scene, whether jaunty or poignant. The acting was equally impressive. Chloe Lee payed the lead character of Ugly incredibly well. She brought depth, character and emotion to her character in a truly impressive and heartfelt manner. I was wowed. Looking around the audience it was clear that I wasn't the only one who was wowed. There plenty of teary eyed faces in the audience because they were so moved.

The beauty of this timeless story is in the message it delivers, which is stated in the plays brochure. "It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept and celebrate those differences."-Audre Lourde.

This message of acceptance is particularly poignant today. We are living in a time in America that is filled with hate and polarization. We might all learn a very important lesson from Honk! Jr. Let us hope that we do.

Catch performances at the University of Michigan's Arthur Miller Theatre, 1226 Murfin Ave this weekend. There will be matinees Saturday and Sunday at 1 pm and 3:30 pm.

Jeff Brown
editor & publisher
Purple Walrus Press.

Honk! Jr. Arthur Miller Theatre. Ann Arbor.

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