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Honk! (Manchester)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Venue: RNCM
Where: Manchester

Stiles and Drewe’s musical, Honk! is quintessential family fun. First ‘hatched’ in 1993 it went on to win the 2000 Olivier Award for Best Musical (beating both The Lion King and Mamma Mia!).

Based on the Hans Christian Andersen story, The Ugly Duckling, the show may seem a little lightweight on first inspection. Following the plight of Ugly, from the rejection by the other farm animals, to his transformation into a beautiful swan is so far, so Cinderella. However, there’s an attitude to this play and thankfully the script’s a little wry and a little knowing and like every good family show, laced with enough subtle humour to keep the mums and dads smiling throughout.
With the show running just over two hours, Director/Choreographer, Kevin Proctor and his capable cast should be very proud indeed of their achievement. With over twenty members of cast and more than twenty songs, Honk! is not a project for the faint hearted but South Manchester Amateur Operatic Society rise to the occasion with aplomb.

The studio production, successfully set in the round, is a visual treat. There’s sumptuous costumes, wonderful ensemble singing, splendid dance routines and simple yet effective props; the lovely underwater scene, reminiscent of Bob Fosse and Busby Berkeley was a particular stand out moment.

The band, under MD Marilyn Blank, play well but often to the detriment of the soloists on stage whose voices, perhaps, weren’t strong enough to carry above the six-piece. There were also wayward accents from some of the cast and moments of ‘dead stage’ but in the main the quality of the production allowed forgiveness for the minor issues.

Special mentions are due for the multi-talented Vikki Brunning as the overbearing gossip, Maureen and the pampered sex-kitten, Queenie and for a superb turn from Peter Bowers as Graylag, the rather officious, hilarious Goose Squadron-Leader. There are also some genuinely touching, heartfelt moments between Ugly and his mother, Ida, played by the very capable Rebecca Keeping.

SMAOS’s new production Honk! is a vivid, tightly-paced runaway success. It is swimmingly good fun - and you’d be quackers to miss it!

- Lucia Cox


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