powered by FreeFind


Honk Logo
Honk! logo by Peter McKintosh - not to be used without permission.


Book and lyrics by Anthony Drewe; Music by George Stiles

First staged at the Watermill Theatre in Newbury, George Stiles and Anthony Drewe's adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's story "The Ugly Duckling" is a wonderful treat for family audiences. Julia McKenzie directed it at Scarborough for the 1997 Christmas season and it is now released for performance by professional and amateur theatre companies.

A gaggle of farmyard characters join the naïve, but loveable, Ugly in his rites-of-passage journey from misrepresented duckling to elegant swan. Peril lies around every corner, usually in the shape of the ravenous Cat, but Ugly receives help from unlikely sources and wins through thanks to his sheer good-naturedness.

The new musical based on one of the world's favourite fairy-tales, Hans Christian Andersen's The Ugly Duckling. Ugly is born, of course, as a Duckling but is soon becomes clear that he is no ordinary Duck. Mocked on the farmyard, pursued by the ever-hungry Cat, Ugly finds himself lost on a nearby marsh in the middle of a duck-shoot and embarks on an odyssey through the countryside, meeting a battery of colourful characters and finding himself, and love, along the way. With a tuneful score, witty lyrics and book, Honk! confirms that Drewe and Stiles are "the brightest hopes for the future of the British musical" Daily Telegraph.

The Story

(you thought you knew) 

Spring has sprung in the duckyard. Drake, the Mallard Duck, and his long-suffering partner, Ida, await the birth of a new brood, but the clutch seems to contain one inordinately large eqg? this year. Sure enough, it cracks open to reveal an ugly chick nothing like his siblings who makes a strange 'Honk" sound instead of the expected "Quack". Ida warms to him, though, and takes him out onto the lake, discovering him to be a prodigious swimmer, but the other farmyard birds, including the rest of his family, ridicule him, driving him into the eager arms of the Tom Cat, who invites him home for "dinner". Ugly escapes by the skin of his teeth, to the Cat's chagrin, but with night failing Ugly becomes lost and, amid much fluster and flurrying of feathers, particularly from Ida, a search is launched. 

Next day, Ugly finds himself on open marshland in the middle of a duck shoot. He is taken under the wing of Graylag, a pompous Goose, under the mistaken impression that he has had a glorious career in the military, and, though the Cat appears just at that moment, the birds take off and escape. Ugly finds a small cottage, home to a domesticated Hen, Lowbutt, and her feline companion, Queenie. The Cat appears yet again, but luckily develops an instant attraction for Queenie, which soon becomes mutual. The search back at the farmyard has become frantic but Ugly is further from home than ever and it seems he will never find his way back. With the onset of freezing winter, his prospects are bleak, but meeting a beautiful young Swan named Penny changes his fortune. She invites him to migrate for the winter and although he declines, desperately wanting to find his "Mother", the Swans return in the spring and help Ida find him just in the nick of time, paving the way for a triumphant return to the farmyard.


4 male, 4 female, 4 children (can be expanded)

Doubling - Honk! was written as an ensemble piece for a cast comprising 4 men, 4 women and 4 children who play, between them, some 30 different roles. In previous professional productions, where cast size is a major financial consideration, the doubling of roles has been as follows:-


1 - UGLY
2 - CAT
3 - DRAKE, GREYLAG and FARMER (voice only)


1 - IDA
3 - MAUREEN, SNOWY, QUEENIE, OLD WOMAN (voice only) and



In addition the whole adult company play FISH and FROGLETS.

Although you may want to assign each of the smaller supporting parts to a different actor, we think a lot of the fun of Honk! comes from seeing the same people playing a variety of comic characters - some of whom, thanks to Velcro®, have to perform amazingly fast costume changes! The show could, however, also be performed by a much larger company.


Where possible we tried to think of the human counterpart of each character and used that as a basis for both the costume design and for the way in which the part was played. So as to give the show more relevance and resonance we think of the characters as being people who happen to have "ducklike" qualities, so never envisaged feathery body suits, masks and beaks. A quick browse through an ornithological tome may inform the costume designer as to suitable colour schemes for each character, and it's amazing how a judiciously placed baseball cap can give the impression of being a duck's beak, or a set of red hair-rollers bear an uncanny resemblance to a chicken's comb. Likewise a pair of orange Dr Marten® boots or platform trainers can look very much like webbed feet! The Bullfrog may not look unlike a plumber in green overalls; the Ducklings are very trendy schoolchildren with baseball caps, Walkman® personal stereos etc., while Ugly is like the class nerd in grey shorts, blazer and sandals. 

The Transformation - The transformation from Duckling to Swan is a challenge/nightmare for the designer but has previously been very successfully achieved in two different ways, both of which involved the actor playing Ugly leaving the stage unbeknownst.to the audience: 

1. During the blizzard, coupled with a "snow fall" lighting effect, a huge sheet of white silk is spread across the stage by the company, covering Ugly and the Cat. The Duckling leaves the stage beneath the silk and changes into his Swan costume, returning before the "snow" melts. 

2. Having rescued Ugly from the Farmer's net, the Cat and the Duckling leave the stage momentarily and an acting ASM look-a-like returns with the Cat during the blizzard while the true Duckling changes his costume offstage. In the subdued lighting state and again with a "snow fall" effect the false Duckling is choreographically replaced by the transformed Duckling who is enrobed in a cloak of "snow" ready for the big reveal. 

Either way the transformation and moment of revelation should be as magical and surprising as possible - if there is a dry eye in the house you have failed! 

Characters - We've found that Honk! works best when the characters are played with real conviction and truth rather than as cartoons. If the audience can believe in, identify with, and care for the characters then you will hopefully have an evening that is both comedic and moving.

Musical Numbers and Scenes

Act One

SCENE I - Various locations around the duckyard. Spring.

  1. A Poultry Tale - Drake, Ida, Turkey, Henrietta, Maureen, Cat, Grace
  2. The Joy of Motherhood - Ida, Maureen
  3. Different (Pre-Reprise) - Ida
  4. Hold Your Head Up High - Ida, Ugly, Fish
  5. Look At Him - Ida, Drake, Ugly, Henrietta, Turkey, Cat, Grace, Ducklings, Maureen
  6. Different - Ugly
    6a. French Ting! - Instrumental
    6b. Do Tell Mama - Instrumental

SCENE II - The Cat's lair, inside one of the farm buildings

  1. Play With Your Food - Cat, Ugly
    7a. Lost - Ugly

SCENE III - The duckyard, later that evening

  1. The Elegy - Company
  2. Every Tear A Mother Cries - Ida

SCENE IV - The marsh. A late summer morning

9a. Goose March - Instrumental

  1. The Wild Goose Chase - Greylag Dot, Snowy, Barnacles, Pinkfoot, Ugly, Cat
  2. Act One Finale: Hold Your Head Up High (Reprise) - Ida, Ugly

Act Two

SCENE I - The Old Woman's Cottage. Late Summer

11a. Entr'acte - Instrumental

  1. It Takes All Sorts - Queenie, Lowbutt
  2. Hold Your Head Up High (Reprise) - Ugly, Queenie, Lowbutt
    13a. Tom Cat Sting - Instrumental
  3. Together - Cat, Queenie, Lowbutt

SCENE II - The Duckyard. Late autumn

  1. The Collage - Drake, Ida. Company

SCENE III - A collage, various locations.

SCENE IV - A ditch on the moors. Late autumn

  1. Now I've Seen You - Ugly
    16a. Pre-Warts - Instrumental
  2. Warts And All - Bullfrog, Ugly, Froglets, Company
    17a. Warts-Off - Instrumental
    17b. Post-Warts - Instrumental
  3. The Blizzard - Company

SCENE V - The open countryside. Late winter

  1. Transformation - Ugly, Ida, Penny
    19a. Melting Moggy - Cat

SCENE VI - The duckyard. Early spring

  1. Act Two Finale: Look At Him (Reprise) - Company
  2. Curtain Calls (Bows) - Instrumental
    21a. Curtain Calls: Warts And All (Reprise) - Company


Vocal material on hire only