A duck of a different color
I drove to Carson City through frightening fog to see Honk! Jr. at the Brewery Arts Center. With this terrible, gloomy weather, and that knot of fear I get in my stomach any time I think about driving in it, this was the last thing I wanted to do. But the warmth of this show stuck with me as I drove home through the fog.
Honk! Jr., a musical directed by Domenic Procaccini II, is an unconventional retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Ugly Duckling, a story we all know. A proud mama and papa duck anxiously await the birth of their ducklings. Four of the five eggs open, revealing beautiful little ducklings. But when the fifth arrives, it’s not so beautiful. This one doesn’t quack; it honks! He is teased mercilessly. Then, after a series of adventures, Ugly realizes he’s not a duck, but a beautiful swan who just needed time to blossom.
Contrary to what you’d expect, none of the actors in Honk! Jr. wear animal costumes. The actors convey that they’re animals in other ways, which requires significant imagination from them—and from costume designer Darla Bayer. Mama Duck, Ida, played ably by Tessa Dixon, wears a pale, yellow dress, which puffs out like feathers on a duck. The ducklings, played by four beautiful little girls—Olivia Abbott, Abby Brown, Heather Canfield and Kora Link—wear yellow jumpers and tennis shoes. Ugly, played by Jacob Linstrom, is perfect in knee-high argyle socks, plaid shorts with matching bow tie, a sweater vest and thick, horn-rimmed glasses.
Linstrom’s performance is delightful. He actually reminded me of Harry Potter. Perhaps it was those glasses. The way the other animals picked on him, and that sad look on his face broke my heart. Also of mention is Karissa Pulizzotto as the Cat, dressed interestingly in black stretch pants, a pink beret and a rhinestone ring; Pulizzotto and Tessa Dixon, as Ida, are very talented singers.
This may be a children’s production, but it’s still funny and smart. The geese, Greylag and Dot, played by Will Dietelin
and Monica Ricketts, are humorously dressed, and Ricketts’ imitation of a flight attendant is dead-on. I also laughed during the scene changes in Act 1. Here, two of the elderly birds on the farm, Maureen and Grace, played by Bethany Mindrum and Ann Marie Gonzales, walk on stage, gossiping in a hen-like squawk, all the while changing the set. Priceless. Little moments like that occur all throughout the play.
Honk! Jr. is a production of BAC Stage Kids, a Brewery Arts Center program that involves children ages 4 to 16 in all aspects of theater, from acting to everything behind the scenes. It’s a real education for kids, and one they clearly enjoy. It’s refreshing to see so much imagination at work and the pride in their faces as they take their bows. While seeing a children’s production may not be your cup of tea, your kids will love it. As for me, it was a sunny spot in an otherwise gloomy night.