Honk If You Love Christmas!
A show to make you laugh, love and cry at the Tabard
This year's Christmas musical at the Tabard is HONK!, a family show with lots of singing and dancing and it's great fun.
The story is based, very loosely, on the Hans Christian Andersen classic the The Ugly Duckling. In this version Ida, a mother duck hatches a cygnet who, because he's not as cute as his brother and sister, is nicknamed Ugly. He's kidnapped by a cat and the show is all about how his distraught mother searches for him while he tries to find his way home. Of course it turns out alright in the end and Ugly becomes a beautiful swan.
HONK! has an enviable pedigree. Written by George Stiles and Anthony Drew in 1993, it's been performed 8,000 times all over the world and won the Olivier Award for Best Musical when it was performed at the National Theatre in 2000. This version doesn't let the writers down. The cast of 10, many of whom play two or more parts, get into their roles with an infectious enthusiasm to give smashing performances. On his travels Ugly meets Bullfrog (Alex Papachristou), the funniest amphibian since Kermit; Greylag, a 'goose stepping' flight lieutenant goose (Mark White in a role he was born to play!), Queenie (Kate Scott), a lady cat with an eye for the boys, a chicken called Lowbutt (Lydia Grant), who pops in and out of an enormous cat flap and Penny (Marina Kelman), a beautiful girl swan.
Ugly is played by Joe Sterling - all gangly, awkward and grey with dreadful ugly glasses, who can only honk not quack. Joe is far too cute to be considered ugly but he delivers a charming performance to give Ugly a touching vulnerability.
The Cat is a magnificent Tim Oxbrow, smarmy as a snake oil salesman. He's the one who kidnaps Ugly and the two of them perform a notable pas de deux in an enormous kitchen as The Cat prepares orange sauce and Ugly plays hide and seek. Tim's got some cool moves which come into their own in a later raunchy encounter with Queenie.
There are two set pieces to look out for,' The Wild Goose Chase' and 'Warts and All' where the whole cast join in and dance – lovely.
Lydia Jenkins and Ben Vivian-Jones play the ducklings Fluff and Beaky. It's lovely to see Lydia again, she's a fabulous musical comedy actress who was in Cinderella last year and was also nominated Best Female in the Off West End Awards for her performance in the Tabard's unforgettable Ruddigore. Ben is also a Tabard regular as he was last seen here in Pirates of Penzance. Both are splendid are they play the ducklings as fluttery, yellow spoilt brats.
Of course, it's funny – it's got a sharp, witty script - but it also has its touching and sad parts as Ida (Kathryn Rutherford) with her battered suitcase travels the world beyond the vicarage to find her baby, the frightened and confused Ugly who's missing his mum and doesn't know how to get home. And lumps in the throat are the order of the day when the two are finally reunited and Ugly has to decide whether to stay in the farmyard or fly with the swans.
The night I was there it got off to a wobbly start but it picked up and got into its stride quite quickly so a small glitch. And sometimes the music was too loud. Joe doesn't have a big voice and there were times that he was drowned out. But it's only been running for a few nights so by the time you get to see it hopefully all that will be sorted out.
HONK! is on until 13th January.
December 21, 2012