Honk! is a musical retelling of the Hans Christian Andersen story The Ugly Duckling, mixed with a theme of pro-tolerance. The book and lyrics were written by Anthony Drewe and score by George Stiles (of the British songwriting duo Stiles and Drewe). Aimed primarily at children and their parents, the story is set in the countryside (originally "a backwater of England", although American productions usually relocate this to the United States). It features an ugly duckling who discovers his inner beauty when he becomes a swan, his tearful mother Ida, a drake who 'ducks' his fatherly responsibilities, a gaggle of comical geese, a sly tomcat who just wants to play with his food, a wisecracking bullfrog, and other such barnyard creatures, together with a great many "fowl" puns.
It opened on December 11, 1999 at The Royal National Theatre in London and went on to win the 2000 Olivier Award for Best Musical. In Ireland the show received a nomination for Best Show in 2003 from the Association of Irish Musicals and came in second place in the Waterford International Festival of Light Opera for 2002.
|Ugly||The ugly duckling, gawky and odd-looking, good swimmer|
|Drake||Ugly's father, who shuns Ugly at first, and when he realizes Ugly is a swan, he acts like he always knew it|
|Ida||Ugly's Mother, the only one supportive of him|
|Ducklings||Ugly's siblings (Beaky, Fluff, Billy, Downy) high pitched cute voices|
|Cat||Trying to eat Ugly, sly and cunning, sometimes portrayed with a French accent|
|Greylag||Admiral Goose, Dot's husband, a considerably bad navigator|
|Dot||Female goose, Greylag's Wife|
|Barnacles, Pinkfoot, Snowy||Members of the Goose Squadron|
|Penny||A beautiful Swan, Ugly's girlfriend|
|Father Swan||Penny's father, Mother Swan's husband|
|Mother Swan||Penny's mother, Father Swan's wife|
|Bewick||A swan from Penny's family|
|Boy & Girl||Voice Only|
|Bullfrog||Laid-back, self-confident frog|
|Duckyard Animals||Various poultry, such as quail, pheasants, ducks, chickens, etc.|
|Froglets||Children of Bullfrog|
|Grace||Most distinguished duck on the lake|
|Henrietta||Neighbor, Maureen's best friend, a little snooty towards Ida|
|Lowbutt||Domesticated Hen, friend of Queenie|
|Maggie Pie/Jay Bird||TV Journalist, very "in your face"|
|Maureen||Ida's best friend, but best friends with Henrietta too; a moorhen|
|Old Woman||Owner of Queenie and Lowbutt (Voice Only)|
|Turkey||The school's Headmaster|
As Drake attempts to sneak away Ida points out all the responsibilities he is ignoring: most notably their five eggs that are ready to hatch. Drake believes one huge egg is a turkey's egg but Ida points out how ridiculous that sounds. Ida expresses the joyous rewards of a mother ("The Joy of Motherhood") and is joined by her friend Maureen. The four "normal" eggs hatch to reveal four wonderful ducklings: Beaky, Downy, Fluff and Billy. The ducklings, ecstatic to find out that they'll have a new member in their gang, soon notice that egg is huge compared to their eggs. As they bombard Ida with "It's not fair!" Drake jumps in and proclaims that he's the ducklings' father.
Drake and the ducklings leave to learn to swim, leaving Ida to wait for the fifth egg to hatch; she realizes that the fifth duck is different ("Different" pre-reprise). The fifth egg finally hatches to reveal a gawky duck who immediately screams "HONK!". Ida, in shock, tests him to see if he's a turkey ("If I say butterball, does that scare you?"), and is overjoyed that he is in fact a duck. As she teaches him to swim she realizes that he has an amazing skill at swimming. They are joined by dancing and singing fish who scare Ugly. Ida sees that she does not swim as well as Ugly, and exhausted, pleads to stop. Ugly asks for one more lap around the lake and they express their feelings ("Hold Your Head Up High"). As Drake and the ducklings walk in they are horrified by Ugly's appearance. Drake believes he's a monster and tries to pull Ida away from Ugly, but Ida points out that Ugly is Drake's son. Drake tests Ugly to see if he's a turkey by sneaking up behind him and yelling "CRANBERRY SAUCE", but Ugly doesn't even flinch.
As the ducklings prepare to meet the farmyard animals, Drake and the ducklings are ashamed that Ugly is part of their brood. Ida tells them not to make fun of him. She also tells them to beware of the cat. They begin to point out everything about Ugly that they hate ("Look at Him"). Maureen sees the brood and adores the ducklings until she sees Ugly. She asks Ida what went wrong, but Ida, offended, tells Maureen she's no pin-up duck either. Ugly asks why the ducklings hate him so much but the ducklings simply continue to make fun of him. Ida and Drake fight over Ugly: Drake thinks Ugly is ruining his reputation, but Ida sees nothing wrong with Ugly.
Then Henrietta points out Ugly's faults and makes fun of Ugly and claims he should just be thrown to the Cat. The Turkey points out how ugly Ugly is by using cooking analogies. Finally all of the farmyard animals point out his faults at once until the Cat appears. The Cat goes unnoticed by the rest of the ducks as he points out how great a meal Ugly is and how easy it will be to lure Ugly away. This time Cat manages to sneak off unnoticed, as Grace enters in order for the new brood to greet her. As everyone gangs up on Ugly to proclaim his hideousness, Ida has had enough and tries to quiet them. Ugly is her son and she loves him. However, Ugly is surrounded by everyone pointing at him — "Look at Him!"
Drake asks the Turkey if he's been messing around with Ida. Turkey claims there's no way he could have a kid as ugly as Ugly. Ida, infuriated, tells him that he won't be so full of himself on Thanksgiving, causing Turkey to shudder. Grace tells Ida how wonderful her brood is, except of course for Ugly. Ida respectfully tells her that she wishes people would stop making fun of him.
As Ugly tries to honk his way into a French bread feast, Grace tells Ida that she's going to have to do something about his honking. The animals leave when Maureen yells "Look, croissants!" Ugly tries to follow but Beaky stops him and says he's too big for his age already. Ugly is in despair because everyone is making fun of him. He tries to "quack" but each time he just ends up honking. He realizes that he is simply "Different". The Cat sneaks up behind Ugly and tries to lure him away by pretending to be his friend. Ugly doesn't believe him, but after the Cat offers him lunch, he happily accepts the Cat's friendship but says that first he's going to ask his mother for permission to go to lunch. As Ugly tries to ask for permission Ida is too busy with the other four ducklings to listen. The Cat now succeeds in luring Ugly away. Ida realizes that Ugly is nowhere to be found, and goes from being worried to being in a panic. Drake says that Ugly probably went to the lake to swim. The group breaks apart to find Ugly.
Meanwhile, in a farm building that doubles as the Cat's lair, the Cat is preparing to make the meal Duck à l'Orange. Ugly mentions that Ida must have been wrong when she told him to beware of the cat. The Cat finds this comment funny and tells Ugly about comments that his mother had about life ("You Can Play With Your Food"). He asks Ugly what game he would like to play; Ugly sings of playing childhood games, but the Cat wants to play "something sharp and witty". The Cat continues to mention playing with your food, but Ugly returns to childhood games that would be fun. The Cat returns to a game that will end in lunch and he and Ugly have a Tom and Jerry-esque game of hide and seek that ends with Ugly in a pot ready to be cooked. Everything is ready for the meal except for one dead duck, but before the Cat can finish the job, Ugly hears children playing outside in the yard. The Cat becomes sidetracked, ranting about how some people shouldn't keep pets. Ugly asks what people are and the Cat tells him that people are nothing but bad news. Finally the Cat is about to kill Ugly when the children outside toss a ball through the window that hits the Cat in the head. Ugly jumps out of the pot to hide as the Cat falls in, unconscious. Ugly, thinking the Cat is simply hiding from the people, runs off to find a hiding spot himself and quickly gets lost.
Back at the duckyard, no one can find Ugly and they mourn him at his funeral ("The Elegy"). Everyone believes Ugly was eaten by the Cat, except for Ida. Jay Bird (or Maggie Pie) interrupts and begins to interview Ida for "America's Most Feathered". Drake has called in Jay Bird to interview the family, claiming to "Get one up on the Pelicans". Jay Bird continues to urge Ida to talk about Ugly and leaves the last few moments of the interview to Ida. Ida laments about what it's like losing one of your children ("Every Tear a Mother Cries"). Ida leaves to continue the search for Ugly and leaves her other four ducklings with Drake, who hands her a cell phone.
Now in mid-summer, two military geese are marching their way through a marsh when they're stopped by Ugly who can't find his way home and begs for them for help. One of the geese, Greylag, simply ignores him and tells the other goose, his wife Dot, to do the same. Dot, however, says that they should help him out although they are migrating. They decide to go on a reconnaissance mission to find Ugly's home. However, a shoot is going on in the marsh. Greylag decides to take the mission and gathers the others; Pinkfoot, Snowy and Barnacles come running in. Greylag informs them of a dangerous mission they are about to undertake. Greylag gives his version of what they need to do ("We're Off on a Wild Goose Chase"). Dot asks Greylag how they're going to find Ugly's farm, and he replies that he will navigate. Dot replies with "That's what I was afraid of".
The Cat sneaks in Greylag threatens the Cat to back off, but the Cat is not frightened. The Cat offers to go to the shoot and tell Greylag when it is finished. Greylag unwittingly accepts his offer, but warns him not to try any funny business. The Geese continue to prepare for their mission and Dot comedically pretends to be a stewardess. The Cat claims the shoot is over, but realizes that Greylag has no intentions of leaving Ugly and the Cat alone and mutters "Oh, Cat litter!". The Geese head off to the shoot which is still going on and get shot down. Ugly, who didn't go on the mission with them, realizes the Cat had lied ponders what to do. Ida and Ugly, although neither sees the other, vow to "Hold Your Head Up High" (Reprise). Act II In autumn, at the house of the Old Lady (VA), she lets her two domesticated animals, Queenie and Lowbutt, inside while she sweeps the leaves from the front porch. Ugly, seeing the door was open has decided to come in to shelter from the cold. He hears the Old Lady and hides from the people under some pillows on a couch. Queenie and Lowbutt come in preparing for a quiet afternoon. However, they soon realize that there is an intruder in their house. Lowbutt notices that whoever sneaked into their house burst one of their pillows. At this statement, Ugly pipes in "Hey, I'm not a burst pillow!". Due to the way he looks, Queenie and Lowbutt are unsure what he is. When Ugly claims to be a duck, they point out that he might be too ugly to be a duck. Queenie says "Well she must've been sick as a parrot when she saw you". At this, Lowbutt laughs and calls Queenie a funny cat. Ugly, realizing from the statement that Queenie is a cat, cowers in front of her and pleads not to be eaten. Queenie becomes offended claiming how disgusting eating birds is and compares it with simultaneously eating and flossing. Ugly also asks Lowbutt why a chicken wouldn't want to be outside. Lowbutt claims that the most comfortable place is on the couch. Queenie and Lowbutt begin to sing about the great difference among everyone and how they only like their kind (It Takes All Sorts). In the song Queenie and Lowbutt claim that the best place in the entire world is inside, on a couch, but Ugly disagrees. After the song is over the three begin to talk about their favorite things to do. Queenie and Lowbutt love indoor things like sewing but Ugly loves outdoor things like swimming. Just then, the grandfather clock rings, Lowbutt and Queenie are missing the antique show. As they turn on the TV Jay Bird and Ida show up, continuing their story on the missing duck. Ugly recognizes his mama and Queenie runs into the kitchen to call the station and inform Ida where Ugly is. Just then the doorbell rings and in comes the Cat, this time he's disguised (poorly) as Drake. Ugly sees through the disguise and tries to warn Lowbutt, but Lowbutt truly believes that the Cat is Ugly's father. The Cat tries to drag Ugly away when Queenie comes running back in. The Cat immediately falls in love with Queenie, but Queenie only sees him as another duck. The Cat removes his Drake disguise and Queenie realizes him as a cat. She too falls in love. The Cat, not wanting to lose Ugly, ties him up. Lowbutt has now figured out that Queenie and the Cat are now hopelessly in love. The Cat and Queenie begin to sing of their happy lives together (Together). As they sing Lowbutt pushes them apart and tries to snap Queenie out of it, but to no avail. Queenie only has eyes for the Cat now. The Cat and Queenie continue to sing and Lowbutt has no choice; If Queenie won't snap out of it, Ugly will just have to lure the Cat away. Lowbutt runs over to Ugly and unties him while the Cat doesn't notice. Ugly runs out the door and Lowbutt begins to pretend that Ugly escaped. The Cat listens in horror as Lowbutt sings of Ugly's escape. The Cat must now choose, Ugly or Queenie. In the end, the Cat chooses Ugly and runs out the door, leaving Queenie in tears. Lowbutt goes to Queenie and consoles her, singing how together, they will overcome this heartache.
Back at the farmyard, Drake is forced into some responsibility and now that the ducklings are almost a year old, their beginning to give Drake a hard time as teenagers. Drake sings about how he finds no "Joy of Motherhood" (The Collage). He begins to realize how Ida puts up with all the problems of Motherhood on top of the problems he created. Ida now sings about her determination to search everywhere for Ugly, (This song is still The Collage). The ensemble sings about the slim chance of her finding Ugly. The song is interrupted when Drake and the Turkey talk of Ida not calling drake (and sending him a rather peculiar postcard), and again when Ida runs into Greylag and Dot, who give Ida a map, and again when Ida runs into Lowbutt and Queenie, who believe Ida is just another Tomcat in disguise. The song ends finally with Ida on the cell phone that Drake gave her. Ida claims to know where Ugly is heading. However, the Cat begins listening to her conversation and figures for himself where Ugly is. Ida realizes who's listening to her and chases the Cat offstage.
Penny is a rather pretty swan who has unfortunately been tangled up on some left over netting in a ditch on the moor. As she screams "Help!", Ugly runs in and sees her. Ugly falls in love with Penny, but with him being so ugly he's afraid to say anything, for fear of what she will say. Ugly helps Penny get untangled and Penny's mother calls from offstage. Penny is on her first migration and needs to head out but she doesn't want to leave Ugly by himself in the cold, especially when Ugly tells her that he hasn't seen his flock since last spring. Penny tells Ugly to come with her but Ugly refuses, claiming he can't fly as well as Penny. In the end she leaves him. As soon as Penny leaves, Ugly spews his feelings for her out to the audience (Now I've Seen You). As he finishes, he realizes someone as beautiful as Penny wouldn't remember someone as ugly as him. Just then, a Bullfrog comes hopping by. Ugly waits for the Bullfrog to call him ugly and run off laughing, but the Bullfrog claims to be ugly as well. The Bullfrog begins to teach Ugly how to look "on the sunny side of the lilypad" (Warts And All). The song teaches Ugly that no matter what someone out there will love you. The Bullfrog is soon joined by his froglets who continue the song with him. Ugly begins to feel better as the song progresses and joins in himself. As the song ends Ugly feels ten times better and thanks the Bullfrog for his time in helping Ugly feel better about himself. The Bullfrog hops offstage and Ugly begins to hum the song to himself. Suddenly, a net drops on Ugly's head. The Farmer (VA) has caught a plump little duckling for his family's Sunday roast. Unfortunately , he has left his knife in the car and walks off to get it. While he's gone the Cat sneaks back onstage. He notices Ugly's predicament and offers a deal; he will lead Ugly back to the farm, but Ugly has to promise to be the Cat's lunch. Ugly agrees to this deal and both of them head back to the farmyard.
As the two are heading back to the farmyard they get caught in a mid-winter blizzard. The chorus is in the backyard singing to their deadly endeavor through this blizzard (The Blizzard). Ida unfortunately has gotten caught in this blizzard as well and passes right by Ugly without even noticing him. Unfortunately Ugly and the Cat freeze in the blizzard. As Ida notices two lumps of snow, she runs to the one of Ugly and pulls out his head. Ida believes Ugly is dead and bursts into tears. Penny, her parents, and Bewick come to Ida and tell her to cry, that her tears of hope will save Ugly. Ida wishes she could believe Ugly was alive, but she can't and she bows her head and cries. Soon Ugly begins to move, slowly he moves more and more and soon he's completely free of the snow. Ugly is no longer a duck, Instead he is now a beautiful swan. When he realizes this he lets out a large "Honk!" He sees Ida and yells "MAMA!" The two begin singing about how the fact that the other was out there helped them get by, and now they will continue to hold their heads up high (Transformation). Penny notices Ugly as the cygnet who saved her earlier. She begins to sing of how she feels about Ugly. Ugly returns her feeling of love and the two kiss. The swans tell Ugly it is now time to come with the swans and learn their ways, but Ugly refuses. He wishes to stay with Ida. Ida however pushes him towards the swans and eventually Ugly chooses to go with the swans. As they fly off Ida sings of how Ugly was different. As she watches the swans fly off she counts them, "One...Two...Three...". Suddenly Ugly reappears on stage with Penny. He and Penny have decided to go with Ida and be the first Swans on the lake. Ida accepts happily and the three head off, but Ugly stops them. He has one more lick of business. Ugly frees the Cat who has remained frozen this entire time. As the Cat notices Ugly is not a duck but a swan, he goes insane and begins to sing messed up versions of different songs in the play. In the end the Cat runs away screaming "Take me to the Betty Fuur Clinic".
Ugly Penny and Ida return to the lake (Look At Him Reprise); everyone loves Ugly now that he's a swan. They ask for his forgiveness for making fun of him. Ugly happily accepts their apology and introduces his new mate, Penny. Even Grace decides that Ugly is now the grandest bird on the lake. The song continues to say that no matter what believe in yourself, even if it's hopeless. If you do that then in your own way you too are a swan. Suddenly the Turkey comes racing in, shouting how he made it through thanksgiving! Everyone is disturbed but in the end they ignore him. Everyone yells "HONK!"