‘Honk’ if you can relate

By Tom Weber

Every family has an ugly duckling. Theoretically, that makes "Honk," which opens Friday at Rochester Civic Theatre, the perfect family show.

Actually, many people might see themselves in "Honk," a musical retelling of the tale of the Ugly Duckling.

"It’s something that rings true for all of us," said Denise Ruemping, who is directing the play. "There is that point inside where we all feel like we’re not quite good enough."


Ruemping has some history with the play, having been in it as a student at Winona State University. "I fell in love with the songs," she said.

Now, as education director at RCT, Ruemping is part of the theater’s play-reading committee. She put in a request to direct "Honk" as soon as it was placed on the schedule.

"I have a special place in my heart for it," she said.

So do audiences. Less than two decades since "Honk" debuted, it has become a favorite of professional and community theaters.

The secret is that, while "Honk" would appear to be a musical for young people, it appeals to adults as well.

"The mother duck character is constantly struggling for her son’s survival," Ruemping said. "There’s that underlying tone of a mother’s unconditional love that carries through the whole show and makes it relatable to adults."

Also shining throughout "Honk" is a charming set of songs.

"I’ve never seen a musical with so much music," Ruemping said. "I think there are only about two or three minutes of dialogue."


That’s the fun part. The more challenging aspect of "Honk" is the need to present action in multiple settings besides a duck yard. In addition, some members of the young cast — six elementary school kids, eight teens and four adults — have to play multiple characters.

Which, coincidentally, serves as a helpful reminder that "Honk" is about people as much as it is about animals.

If you go

What: The family musical "Honk"

When: Opens Friday. Shows at 7 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday through Nov. 30.

Where: Rochester Civic Theatre, 20 Civic Center Drive S.E.

Tickets: $22 adults, $19 students, $12 students. 282-8481.

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