Ugly looks quite a bit different from his duckling brothers and sisters, and the other farm animals quickly notice and point this out. Along the way, he finds himself on an adventure of self-discovery, learning that being different is not a bad thing to be. Sure to deliver equal amounts of laughter, tears, and love!
In notes from the director Larry Borero, the audience is asked if we have ever felt “different,” and gave us the following introduction to “Honk! Jr.”:
“Hans Christian Anderson’s classic tale, ‘The Ugly Duckling,’ has been transformed into a modern musical comedy appropriate for everyone in the family. Although the story of ‘Honk! Jr.’ appears to be a simple children’s story, the themes are universal and relevant. The musical deals with bullying, peer pressure, and parental responsibility. It asks the questions what do we do when we exclude those who are different? How do we treat people who are not like us? What would you do to protect your child? Is there an inner swan in you? All are important lessons that we as adults continue to master if we are to pass on love and acceptance to our children. With a theme based on finding the beauty and dignity in life, my hope is that the show will find a way to allow each of us to love ourselves so that we can find a way to love each other’s differences.”
Mr. Borero did indeed succeed in creating a masterful telling of the story that brought all the above-mentioned questions to mind. With a cast almost entirely comprised of children and teenagers, this amazingly well-written and scored musical was brilliantly performed. What swept across the stage at Firehouse Theater was not only well performed, but it was obvious that careful time had been taken with these young performers to help them understand their roles and how to jell as a cast.
The leading role of Ugly, Javier Casanova, was a perfect showcasing of talent. Not only is his characterization spot on, but his stage presence is equally captivating. Ida, Ugly’s mother, is given heart and soul by Hilary Allen. Her performance truly reached out to every parent in the audience and reminded us of our unconditional love for our children. Throughout the show, there are continuous brilliant young performers that took me from laughter to tears all night long. However, Kris Allen as The Bullfrog was exceptional. As one of the few adults in the show, Allen helps bring a well-rounded feel to the story and a perfect portrayal of a funny, charming and deeply caring character.
Set design by Jason Leyva must be given mention. I have seldom been to a show where the set tells almost as much of the story as the cast. Leyva’s set absolutely comes to life and drew me into the world of “Honk! Jr.”
With this performance as a promise of what is to come from Firehouse Theater’s children’s program, I am eager to see more. The children’s program, including their summer camps, will be using the new curriculum Mr. Borero has created. His plan is to further implement a mentoring program for adults and older teens helping teach what they’ve learned to younger members. The true spirit of what a theater family should be. Please visit Firehouse’s website at www.thefirehousetheatre.com to learn more about this amazing community theater and what they have in store for their incredible 2017 season.
“Honk! Jr.” recently performed at the Firehouse Theatre in Farmers Branch