Arts and Entertainment

Review: Drama Dock soars with high-flying 'HONK!'

Marshall Murray, left, is a little different than his siblings Emma Hennessey, Hannah Scheer, Megan Hackett and Maya Bulow-Krah. - Hawk Jones photo
Marshall Murray, left, is a little different than his siblings Emma Hennessey, Hannah Scheer, Megan Hackett and Maya Bulow-Krah.
— image credit: Hawk Jones photo

From the simple but vibrant costumes to the well-timed poultry puns, Drama Dock’s production of “HONK!” is crisply executed and a joy to behold.

Directed by the talented Elizabeth Ripley, “HONK!” is well suited to young and old, with plenty of humor aimed at both. Those who are no longer spring chickens can still appreciate the physical humor of awkward and endearing Ugly, played by Marshall Murray, while some cleverly used clucks and quacks fly over the heads of the wee ones.

The versatile set and peek-a-boo onstage orchestra pit keep the attention focused on the cast, not the objects nearby. And the costumes are made up entirely of human clothes. It’s up to the characters to show their species, and each one does this well. From the tiniest gosling to the eldest turkey, the cast members inhabit their barnyard roles wonderfully.

Mum-to-be Ida (Maggie Laird) swept me off her feet with her country posh demeanor, sparkling presence and powerful pipes. Ida has big hopes for her five eggs, one of which is abnormally large. She’s overjoyed when her first four, appropriately sized ducklings are born. And when Ugly breaks out of his shell, he’s nothing like the others. But refreshingly so.

Murray wears his delightfully dorky, misfitted preppy clothes as well as he does rollerskates and Converse sneakers.

He’s the reason “HONK!” is in all capital letters. When knock-kneed Ugly lets out his characteristic squawk, it’s so loud it surprises those unprepared for such an energetic vocalization.

When he sings, Murray is pitch-perfect — except when he attempts a quack. Sadly, he realizes, he “lacks the knack,” and all he can manage is a QUONK!

Still, his youthful exuberance at everything he tries is infectious and elicits smiles and chuckles throughout the musical.

Ugly’s naiveté lands him in hot water with the Cat, played by Calen Winn, who prowls and yowls with a sass that keeps him from being pigeonholed in his antagonist role. When Ugly escapes the kitty’s clutches but can’t find his way home, he begins the epic journey that takes him far from “the duckyard” where he was born.

On the way, he meets a gaggle of impertinent geese who take him under their collective wing — only to leave him as they embark on a flight that marks the show’s most inventive scenic inspiration.

Ugly runs into Queenie and Lowbutt, a highbrow cat and hen — Zoey Rice and Patricia Kelly, respectively — whose personalities are as different as they are large. Rice has a crystalline voice, and felinity seems to come naturally to her. And Kelly’s fluttery frustration and prissy affectations are fun to watch. Note that the role of Queenie is played by Rice and Abby Enson, on alternating nights.

Ugly also meets an “aesthetically challenged” amphibian, the Bullfrog (Phil Dunn). Evocative of Robin Williams as the Frog Prince, Dunn is a delight as he jokes, croaks and sings his attempts to cheer up poor Ugly.

Reminding Ugly that someday, “someone’s gonna love ya warts and all,” Dunn calls on his frog maidens and froglets to join in the chorus. Large personalities, inventive costumes and a great tune make this number a highlight.

A little later in his search for the duckyard, Ugly meets a graceful swan named Penny, played by Mary Kay Rauma. Rauma’s voice is a glorious counterpart to Murray’s, and the duo share in an uplifting duet more than once.

I’m certainly not going to tell you how the play ends, and don’t think that just because you know “The Ugly Duckling,” you know the ending to “HONK!” You don’t. It’s even better.

— Amelia Heagerty is a Beachcomber staff writer.

Show times

“HONK!” continues its run this weekend and next at the Vashon High School theater. Shows are at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, April 16 to 18 and 23 to 25, and 2 p.m. Sundays, April 19 and 26.

Tickets, $10 to $15, are on sale at Books by the Way and Vashon Bookshop.

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