Earlier today, The Toddler and I attended Hop and Honk: The Ugly Duckling and The Frog Prince, by iTheatre, a children’s theatre company. This was our first performance by this troupe.
I had purchased seats in Circle 2 at Drama Theatre Centre at the National Library; upon arrival, we were “upgraded” to seats in the Stall, not far from the stage. There weren’t even a hundred theatergoers in the audience; we had Row I entirely to ourselves.
Hop and Honk fractures and intertwines two fairy tales. The musical tells the story of Prince Anura, inspired by The Brothers Grimm’s “The Frog Prince,” and Cygna, inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Ugly Duckling,” together.
The good: The simple set, with no bells and whistles, was enchanting. iTheatre used lighting in creative ways and much to the advantage of the performance. Ethyl Yap (“Cygna”) and Alecia Kim Chua (“Anna Merganser,” Cygna’s foster mother), among other performers, had moving voices. And Hop and Honk’s music, by Belinda Foo and Julian Wong, was hummable.
The not-so-good: The writing, by iTheatre Artistic Director Brian Seward, was far too “talky” for theatre for young people. In several scenes, one or more characters conversed with each other sans movement, props, or anything that might hold a young child’s attention. Cue squirmy, uninterested children in the audience. And for the third time this year, a theatre production for children has traded in tired stereotypes for laughs. Here, “Edina Chukkabutti,” played by Dwayne Lau, is a goose with a cartoon-esque “Indian” accent (that accursed accent—the one that no actual desi uses), complete with turban and exaggerated head waggle. Are you kidding me? I can’t even.
Honk and Hop closes on Saturday, November 15.