Arts & Entertainment

ACT makes noise with 'Honk!'

Hans Christian Andersen often pointed out the shallowness of the human condition in his stories.

One of his more touching tales addresses an ugly duckling that was shunned by its peers because it wasn't beautiful. Then one day it grew up to be a magnificent swan.

The Academy of Children's Theatre SummerStage program will present the musical version of the story, called Honk! Jr., Aug. 14-15 at the ACT studio, 213 Wellsian Way in Richland. Showtime is 7 p.m.

SummerStage is a program that gives kids a theater experience during the summer months, said Josh Darby, the show's director. A group of ACT drama teachers walk the kids through auditions, rehearsals and finally the actual production during the two-week program.

"We do a full show with costumes, set, props, lights and everything else that goes on with theater," Darby said. "We also give the kids a unique experience that they cannot get anywhere else. The camp also gives kids a chance to work with theater professionals and those training in the field."

Honk! Jr. focuses on the relationship between the ugly duckling and his mother and how she helps him work through the sadness of being shunned by his peers.

The musical won the Laurence Olivier Award for best new musical in 2000.

In case you might have forgotten the gist of the classic tale, it goes something like this: A swan's egg somehow gets mixed in with a nest full of duck eggs, and when they all hatch, it becomes painfully clear that the baby swan isn't like all the rest of the ducks in the barnyard.

The other baby ducks are totally unimpressed by this strange-looking sibling. He's way too big for a duckling and his quacking is more like a honking noise, which makes him doubly weird. Because he's so odd looking, all the barnyard animals start calling him the ugly duckling.

Ida, the mother duck, is concerned about her offspring as well, but her motherly instincts still are protective toward him, especially when she sees how well he can swim.

As everyone teases and pecks at him, Ida tries to console the youngster, reassuring him that it's OK to be different. But the ugly duckling can bear no more of the taunts and eventually runs away to grieve alone.

As time passes and the duckling grows up, he sinks deeper into loneliness. Then one day a wondrous thing happens. The ugly duckling discovers he's really a beautiful swan.

"This show has some of the best music that most people have never heard," Darby said. "It's fun, fresh and time well spent."

Tickets to the show are $8 for adults and $5 for kids ages 10 and younger. Tickets are available at the door.

*Dori O'Neal: 582-1514;