OGDEN, Utah – Parents everywhere will be able to relate to Utah Musical Theatre's production of Honk!
"Honk! is built around the character of Ida, the mother figure from the ugly duckling story," said Bruce Cohen, UMT's artistic and managing director. "We explore many of the universal themes of being a parent."
Directing her first show for UMT is Jean Kerr, director of dance studies at Illinois Wesleyan University. In addition to directing and choreographing the production, she can personally relate to Ida's struggles with being separated from her child. Kerr's two children are home in Illinois with her husband, while she spends five weeks in Utah working on Honk! "I call home and ask, 'Now what did you eat for dinner tonight?'" she said.
Despite the distance from family, Kerr is enjoying the process of preparing Honk! for its theatrical flight. Drawing on her dance background, she has worked closely with the cast to teach the actors how to convey their role through physical actions.
"All of them are portraying animals, and I'm encouraging them to express the animals' traits in the way they move, how they talk," said Kerr. These physical mannerisms are all the more important because the cast will wear costumes that only hint at the animal they represent rather than full-fledged animal costumes.
That was a major selling point for Polly Seale, who plays Ida. "When they called to offer me the part I made sure I didn't have to wear a duck costume," she said.
Seale, an equity actor who relocated to Sandy, Utah, after working in Los Angeles for 20 years, said she loves the creativity, collaboration and "fabulous concepts" involved in bringing the story to the UMT stage. She admitted it's a different experience being the oldest member of the cast, placing her in a maternal role on and off stage.
The mother of two, Seale said the show celebrates the importance of "being yourself, being proud of being different."
"Ida is a very emotional role, it's a very serious part surrounded by so much comedy," Seale said. "Ida takes pride in her son, no matter what. From the moment he's hatched, she sees the strength in his differences."
Honk! opens its three-week run July 4 with a special 2 p.m. matinee. Evening performances will be held July 5, 9-12, 16-19, all starting at 7:30 p.m. at Peery's Egyptian Theatre (2415 Washington Blvd) in Ogden. In addition, there will be a 2 p.m. matinee July 5. Tickets cost $22 and are available at 1-800-WSU-TIKS or 801-626-8500.