When an ugly duckling learns to embrace what makes him unique instead of striving for someone else’s standard of perfection, he makes friends with other eclectic creatures while unwittingly avoiding a hungry cat.
The Downriver Youth Performing Arts Center will present “Honk! JR.,” with book and lyrics by Anthony Drewe and music by George Stiles, Aug. 25 to 27 at the Trenton Village Theater. Directed by Nathan Vasquez, the show features a cast of child ages 5 to 13 years old.
Vasquez, an experienced youth theater director, said the show has been on his wish list for many years.
“Since it hasn’t been done locally in a long time, I thought now would be a great time to reintroduce this classic musical to a new generation of young actors,” he said.
Vasquez said the show is a musical version of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Ugly Duckling,” filled with catchy songs.
“It features a powerful message of acceptance of others for their differences as well as an equally important message of accepting yourself for who you are,” he said.
Vasquez said the cast features young actors with a wide range of experience, but he has been pleased to see the more seasoned actors stepping up to help the neophytes learn their craft to help make the show a success.
He said “Honk! JR.” is also an excellent way for parents to introduce young children to the magic of live theater.
“There are plenty of fun songs and dances to keep even the youngest audience members entertained,” Vasquez said.
Actor Evan Langlet, 12, of Rockwood, who plays Ugly, said his character is unique and challenging to portray.
“Everyone can relate to Ugly in some way,” he said. “Ugly shows audiences that being unique can actually be amazing.”
Actress Allison Langlet, 10, of Rockwood, who plays Dot, a goose, said she has her first solo in this show, which she has worked hard to perfect.
She said rehearsals have been an enjoyable part of the learning experience.
“Mr. Nathan (Vasquez) plays fun games with us and has worked really hard to make this show a lot of fun for audiences,” Allison Langlet said.
Ava Cason, 10, of Woodhaven, who plays Beaky, one of Ugly’s duckling siblings, said while she has fun with the silly aspects of her character, it isn’t fun being mean to Ugly.
She said the underlying message of the show is important to share with audiences.
“I love that this show is about celebrating differences,” she said. “I hope the audience loves the songs.”
Annika Kung, 10, of Grosse Ile Township, who plays a swan, a goose and is in the blizzard number, said her biggest rehearsal challenge has been learning the dance numbers without kicking her fellow cast members. She hopes audiences enjoy the show’s humor.
Nicholas Bond, 10, of Brownstown Township, who plays Billy, one of Ugly’s duckling siblings, said while the show is filled with fun songs and dances, there is one thing in the show that tests him as an actor.
“The most challenging thing is having patience while waiting to be hatched,” he said.
Sofia Castrillon-Ibarra, 11, of Brownstown Township, who plays Ida, Ugly’s mother, said she enjoys playing the role of the kind, easygoing mother.
She said the show is well-suited for families to enjoy together.
“The message teaches not to judge a book by its cover, and to invest in getting to know people regardless of their situation,” Castrillon-Ibarra said. “A family goes through difficult times, but at the end come together.”
Holden Clemons, 12, of Trenton, who plays Drake, Ugly’s father, said that while memorizing his lines and learning some of his vocal parts was challenging, he enjoyed learning the show’s dance numbers.
“It has great dance numbers, costumes and storytelling,” he said. “They will love the show and want to see it again.”
Robert Frank, 12, of New Boston, who plays a turkey and a froglet, said he has had fun interacting with the other barnyard animals, and especially enjoys the song entitled, “Warts and All.”
Riley Frank, 7, of New Boston, who plays a farmer, a froglet and a member of the duck yard, said that now that he has mastered singing while walking up on stage, he has begun to appreciate the show’s humor.
“It’s a funny show about a swan,” he said.
Others in the cast include Allen Park residents Layla Malnar, 11, as Penny and a goose squadron member, Lucy Malnar, 7, as a froglet and duck yard member and Selena Malnar, 10, as Jay Bird and a froglet; and Brownstown Township residents Jocelyn Floetke, 9, as a goose squadron member, a swan and in the blizzard number, Raven Harten, 9, as Downy and Avery Scrivner, 7, as a goose squadron member, a swan and in the blizzard number.
Also in the cast are Ecorse resident Brooklyn Harris, 8, as Fluff; Grosse Ile Township residents Fatima Hamadi, 13, as Mother Swan and a goose and Alainna Sworst, 12, as Grace and a froglet; and Riverview residents Alicia Harris, 11, as a froglet and duck yard member, Brandon Lozowski, 9, as a boy, froglet and duck yard member, Maggie Lozowski, 7, as a girl, froglet and duck yard member, Eliana Searles, 5, as a froglet soloist and a duck yard member and Emeline Searles, 9, as Barnacles and in the blizzard number.
Also, Rockwood residents Brady Kurlfink, 9, as camera crewmember 1 and a froglet and Emmet Kurlfink, 10, as camera crewmember 2 and a froglet; Romulus resident Georgia Boyd, 10, as Pinkfoot and in the blizzard number; Taylor resident Peyton Powers, 11, as Snowy and in the blizzard number; and Trenton residents Sloan Cannon, 11, as Maureen and a froglet, Lucy Hurst, 9, as a blizzard number soloist and a member of the goose squadron, Karsyn Smith, 9, as the Cat and Aurora Zmijewski, 11, as Greylag and in the blizzard number.
Also, Woodhaven residents Grayson Adkins, 7, as a goose squadron member, a swan and in the blizzard number, Brady Pippin, 9, as the Bullfrog and a member of the duck yard, and Emberlyn St. John, 11, as Henrietta and a froglet; and Wyandotte residents Max Pratt, 9, as Father Swan and a goose and Will Pratt, 9, as Berwick and a member of the goose squadron.
Showtimes at 7 p.m. Aug. 25 and 26 and 2 p.m. Aug. 27 at the Trenton Village Theater, 2447 W. Jefferson in Trenton. Tickets are $10 to $14 and are available at showtix4u.com/event-details/75617. For more information about DYPAC, go to dypac.com.