FFBOS presents Honk! The Ugly Duckling Musical

I’m always thrilled to see something different when it comes to theatre so it was great to be invited to review Finchley and Friern Barnet Operatic Society’s (twitter: @FFBOS) production of Honk. With music by George Styles and book and lyrics by Anthony Drewe, the musical tells the classic story of the Ugly Duckling in a whole new light, with people portraying animals although often showing some very human-like qualities!

Like the original tale, the ugly duckling is born to a family of perfect little brothers and sisters. He is immediately branded as ‘different’ and quickly victimised by his father, siblings and others in the farmyard. Feeling rejected, the duckling is enticed away from the lake by the devious local cat and finds himself lost but facing an adventure to find himself as well as his loving mother.

I must say the group, directed by David Stone, brought to life a musical which didn’t always appeal to my personal taste. The songs were quite average in places and the script could have been improved. Several spoken lines were obvious although there were moments that made me chuckle. It has potential but could do with some tweaking. I didn’t leave the theatre humming any of the songs which were unfortunately easily forgettable. But saying this FFBOS made the evening thoroughly enjoyable with a lively and imaginative show that will bring a smile to your face.

Despite the fact I didn’t take to the actual musical, it was still a very good amateur production but I felt it could have done with a little more ‘oomph’ at times, which could be down to first night nerves. I’m sure as everyone settles into their roles they will relax and flourish further.

The absolute star of the show for me was David Adams who played The Cat. His gorgeous, sly feline performance stood out beyond all others with top comic timing and delivery as he endlessly pursued the ugly duckling. I must also commend his tapping skills! Another nod to Rosanna Cennamo who gave the character of Queenie an edge. A brief love interest between the two was brilliantly portrayed in the duet ‘Together’ which was by far one of my favourite numbers of the night with excellent execution.

The group is lucky to have such a good set of voices and the lead singers, Jamie Wright as Ugly and Kim Davidson Rabin as Ida, really flourished in their musical numbers. The show’s strength lies in the amount of singing parts allowing many more cast members to shine which I really enjoyed. Particular favourites of mine were Simon Mowbray as Drake, Chris Henry-Reeve as Bullfrog, and Adrienne Viall as Barnacles. I must applaud the children in this show who gave the little ducklings innocent but funny characters in their pieces. They looked particularly cute in their little school blazers and hats and pulled off great performances of what could be considered quite demanding roles for the age of some of the children.

The choreography in this show was another credit to the production, led by Claire Protopapa and Mitchell Lathbury. I was impressed by the amount of large ensemble numbers that they attempted in this show. From my experience with amateur theatre you often find some people with a distinct aversion to dance but the whole cast really threw themselves into the group dance numbers which was complimented by fitting choreography and inventive costumes.

Speaking of costumes, I did love the wardrobe in this show – it was modern and complimentary to the cast. In places I did wonder which animal was being portrayed as they first stepped onto the stage, but as the acting began it became clear. The cast certainly put top effort into perfecting their animalistic tendencies.

Musically and technically there were few faults with the production, obviously allowing for the fact that it was opening night. The very small but effective band directed by Liam Howlett didn’t miss a beat and really complimented the sometimes average music they were given to work with. The set was simple but effective and the large eggs that bore the little ducklings in the first act were great. There were a few late lighting cues and one small situation changing sets but I’m sure these will become smoother as the production continues.

Overall I must hand it to the FFBOS for tackling something a bit different than your average musical and producing it as well as they did. The production is running at the Intimate Theatre, Palmers Green until Saturday 5th April.

Tickets available at http://ffbos.com/.

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