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Cleveland Highs HONK filled the winter musical bill

by: David F. Ashton, Ugly stumbles across the house of the Farmer’s Wife while trying to escape the ridicule, and runs into the sophisticated Cat, as well as Queenie (Eleanor Bray) and house-frau hen, as well as Lowbutt (Liza Cortright), who exclaims, “A feather pillow must have burst” when she sees Ugly.

Taking a turn away from the traditional musicals, this year the Cleveland High School Thespians presented a relatively new - but award-winning - show, simply entitled 'HONK!' in March - on the 6th through the 16th.

'We thought a contemporary musical would be a nice change from the traditional musical shows we've been doing for the last six years,' said the show's director, Jane Ferguson, Cleveland High's drama instructor.

'Yes, 'HONK!' is a cute show,' Ferguson continued, 'but more than that, this is a story about accepting people who are different from you. And, we have a very diverse population of students here at Cleveland High School.'

About the story …

This retelling of Hans Christian Andersen's 'The Ugly Duckling' mixed in a theme of tolerance for others.

The British songwriting duo of George Stiles and Anthony Drewe aimed their book and score, originally entitled 'The Ugly Duckling, or the Aesthetically Challenged Farmyard Fowl', towards children and their parents. Since the musical first premiered in 1993, its name has been changed to 'HONK!', and it has won numerous awards, including the 2000 Olivier Award for Best Musical - beating 'The Lion King'.

'Our musical director, Sam Barbara, recently starred in this same show at the University of Portland,' noted Ferguson.

'HONK!' is set in rural England. As the story unfolds, 'Ugly', gawky and odd-looking as he is, finds he simply doesn't fit into life around the duck pond.

Ida, his tearful mom, does her best to defend Ugly, while his dad Drake 'ducks' his fatherly responsibilities.

Along the way, Ugly meets a purrr-fectly cunning, sly - and hungry - Cat, who sings of the joys of 'playing with food', and wants to have Ugly over for lunch or dinner, literally.

'Honk!' is a pun-filled backwoods romp that includes a wisecracking bullfrog, a snide house-hen, and other comical barnyard creatures.

'We hope the community enjoyed this unique musical as much as we liked putting it on,' Ferguson said.

The cast of 50 students was aided by a professional choreographer, Aerin Shannon, and a set designer from Lewis and Clark College, John Gerth.

And, the show's cast drew from all grade levels at the school, Ferguson added. 'It looks like we have a great group of underclassmen who will be here to continue in our future productions.'