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Drama Dock's new production features a flock of fine thespians
On a recent misty Saturday afternoon on Vashon, a flock of ducklings skittered past a regal frog, who was holding court on a lily pad.
Geese marched by with military precision, while a cat hid stealthily nearby, dreaming of dinner. A wild turkey fluffed his feathers, and a jay bird’s noisy chatter filled the air.
A typical Island scene — except the action wasn’t taking place at Fisher Pond, but in the multipurpose room of McMurray Middle School, where the cast of Drama Dock’s upcoming production of “HONK!” was hard at work in a rehearsal for the show.
“HONK!” — a song-and-dance version of Hans Christian Andersen’s fable “The Ugly Duckling” that has been staged all over the world — will have a run at Vashon High School April 10 through 26.
And according to Phil Dunn, who is playing the role of Bullfrog, the musical is almost ready.
“It’s coming together,” Dunn said, as he high-stepped confidently across the room wearing large blue flippers, bulging round goggles and a bright green bowler hat.
The show’s director, Elizabeth Ripley, sat perched on the lip of the stage, deep in consultation with a group of teenage girls who are playing ducklings.
Brushing back her dramatically highlighted black-and-white hair, she finished her intense conversation with the young actresses and then turned her attention to the show’s band director, Chris Overstreet, who also had a question.
This is Ripley’s second directorial stint at Drama Dock, which comes on the heels of her staging of “The Importance of Being Earnest” for the group last year.
She had never heard of “HONK!” until Drama Dock asked her to consider directing it, she said, but after doing some research and listening to the show’s music, she enthusiastically signed on.
“It’s drop-dead adorable,” she said, “and I’m enchanted by the music.”
Ripley brings an impressive list of professional credits to her work with Drama Dock — she’s an opera singer who has performed with Seattle Opera and Cascade Symphony; she also works extensively as a voice teacher, acting coach, actress and director.
“The only thing I don’t do in the theater is design lights,” she said with a laugh.
On Vashon, she staged “An Evening of American Opera” presented at the Blue Heron last October, and she is also remembered well for her star turn as the Queen of the Night in an acclaimed production of “The Magic Flute” that was staged at the Methodist Church in 2006.
Ripley is also the mother-hen of a brood of young aspiring theater artists, several of whom are in the cast of “HONK!” or helping behind the scenes. The group includes her own daughters, who are lending their talents to the production.
One daughter, Madelaine Ripley, is co-choreographing the show with Lauren Appley. Another daughter, Lillian Ripley, has the daunting task of designing the set and costumes for the show — a job she is approaching with imagination and a sense of humor.
Lillian describes her concept for the play’s costumes as “Norman Rockwell, if he really liked jazz,” and promised that the costumes would be “extremely colorful” and inspired by the 1950s.
She’ll have her work cut out for her as she dresses the cast of 35.
The show’s oldest performer is octogenarian Frank Petree, who plays the part of Tom the Turkey. The youngest is 6-year-old Tatum Schmidt, who plays two parts — a baby chicken and a froglet.
Director Ripley described the cast as the perfect blend of “Drama Dock stalwarts and an infusion of new blood.”
Jazz chanteuse and piano teacher Maggie Laird is appearing in her first production with the group, cast in the poignant role of the ugly duckling’s anxious mother.
Mary Kay Rauma, a marketing professional and active Island parent, has been cast in the role of Penny, the beautiful swan maiden who eventually becomes the love interest of the ugly duckling.
Rauma, a striking blonde who is a confident singer and dancer, said she hasn’t been in a show since college but that she was having a wonderful time working with Ripley and the cast of “HONK.”
She singled out the show’s star, Marshall Murray, for special praise.
Murray is cast in the comic leading role of Ugly, who transforms during the course of the show from a picked-on outcast to a magnificent and handsome swan that is the envy of the flock.
Murray, who moved to Vashon a year and a half ago, is currently employed as an administrative assistant at Vashon Youth & Family Services. He has a degree in theater arts from Portland State University and has acted in more than 50 shows, many of them musicals.
Elizabeth Ripley predicts that Island audiences are in for a treat with Murray’s performance.
“He keeps finding new things,” she said, “and he slays me every time. He’s amazing, and I couldn’t do the show without him.”
Drama Dock’s “HONK!” will take place at the Vashon High School theater April 10, 11, 16 to 19 and 23 to 26. Performances begin at 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays. There is no show on Easter Sunday. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for children and seniors, with $5 discounts April 10 and 11 and Thursday evening performances.