Horizon Youth Theatre’s “Honk!” delivers important message with smile

Sky Frishman sings about the motherhood in a scene from "Honk!" presented as part of Art in the Park.

By DAVID DUPONT

BG Independent News

The Horizon Youth Theatre is ready to make some noise.

This weekend the youth troupe will stage “Honk!” a contemporary musical retelling of Hans Christian Anderson’s story “The Ugly Duckling.”

The musical will be performed at First United Methodist Church, 1526 E. Wooster St., Friday, June 17, and Saturday, June 18, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, June 19, at 2 p.m.  Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for children. Visit http://horizonyouththeatre.org/product/honk/.

Director Cassie Greenlee said the musical is a perfect fit for the young troupe — a fun show with a message. The script was written for a cast of 12 with most actors playing multiple roles. Instead Horizon cast an actor for every part. That meant a role for all those who came out for auditions. That’s a cast of 37, and there’s plenty for them to do.

s Long as the Cat and William Cagle as the Ugly Duckling in a scene from "Homk!"

Thomas Long as the Cat and William Cagle as the Ugly Duckling in a scene from “Honk!”

“The secondary characters may be only in one scene but they have a big song or a big part, so we’re able to showcase the talent Horizon has,” Greenlee said. All the members of the cast “have a chance to shine.”

That means they all “have a large chunk of responsibility.” Many are “stepping out of their comfort zone, maybe singing solo for first time.”

“It’s important to push them out of those comfort zones a little bit and they’ve risen to the challenge,” Greenlee said.

Sky Frishman, 16, auditioned for the show because of that wealth of parts. She wasn’t aiming for a particular role, she just wanted to be part of the show. “There were so many good roles,” she said.

She’s playing one of the leads as Ida, the Ugly Duckling’s mother. A veteran of eight years with Horizon, she said, she hasn’t had that many leads. Now as Ida, the Toledo School for the Arts student has a number of songs to learn. That’s a challenge, she said.

It’s also what Horizon Youth Theatre is about.  The troupe accepts children “no matter how much experience you have, just to learn and grow.”

That’s what she’s done. Frishman remembers how “cool” it was when she was just starting – her first show was “Sun and Moon” directed by founder Scott Regan – and teens were still performing with the troupe. Now, entering her senior year of high school, she’s one of those older students. “It’s come full circle,” she said. “I love Horizon Youth Theatre. They’re my home.”

William Cagle, who plays the title role, is also a teen trouper. He last appeared with the troupe several summers ago in “Aladdin Jr.” Now getting ready to head off to Columbia University where he will study writing, Cagle came back for one more chance to work with Greenlee. “I’ve always been close to Cassie,” he said, adding, “I love working with kids.”

A Maumee Country Day School graduate, he said that his Horizon experience helped him in his school theater experiences. As a freshman, he earned a large singing role in a Maumee Valley musical.  “I don’t think I would have been given something like that without the background” from Horizon Youth. He just wrapped up his school career portraying Daddy Warbucks in “Annie.”

Cagle’s character’s nemesis the Cat is played by Thomas Long, 14. He said Horizon has nurtured his love of theater, and while he considered other options for high school, he decided on going to Bowling Green High because “the drama club is amazing.”

Long likes being the villain, even if it is played for laughs. Long is 5’2” and Cagle tops 6 feet. Still the Cat is intent on devouring Ugly.

While the “duckling” thinks they’re playing a game of chase with the Cat, the Cat really is intent on eating him.

Greenlee said that dynamic, which even the score identifies as having “Tom and Jerry” feel, are some of the hijinks that make the play such a fun show.

But that’s not the only reason it was selected, Greenlee said.

“The story of the Ugly Duckling is a relevant story,” the director said. “It allows kids of this age to have a lot of important conversations, and I think that’s an important part of theater. When we choose a show to do, it’s not just picking a show that’s not strictly a good time, but also picking a show that says something important.”

While not a fan of “preachy” theater, Greenlee said: “The message we’re focusing on for our version of ‘The Ugly Duckling’ is that the words you choose to use matter.”

Those words used “to describe other people, to describe yourself, the words you decide on, make a difference.”

She noted that in the script the title character isn’t given a name. He’s only referred to as “Ugly.”

“The more often that word is used to describe him, the more he believes that it’s true,” she said.

He’s called “ugly” even by “very nice characters,” Greenlee said. “They don’t mean anything by it. They’re just making an observation.” Still “he’s taking it into himself, internalizing it. That happens every day with kids.”

Some of the actors decided “Ugly” needed a name so they dubbed him “Nicholas.”

One of those was Sky Frishman. That was true to her character, and one of the reasons Ida is “so special.”

“She’s the only one who loves Ugly unconditionally,” Frishman said. “It’s important to know that wherever you are in your life, someone is going to love you.”

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