Paul Johnson | 02 Apr 2014 12:05pm
We all know the story, we read it as children, to our children – it’s undoubtedly a classic. But I dare you to say you’ve seen the ugly duckling sing. Well I have, and in all honesty, he sang rather well.
The Finchley and Friern Barnet Operatic Society (FFBOS) is currently entertaining North London with the tale of a hapless, honking duckling who is not quite as aesthetically blessed as his kin. Following some sneaky lunch-time antics by the farmyard Cat (David Adams), Ugly (Jamie Wright) becomes lost and so his journey to find his way home begins. As he journeyed, lead Jamie Wright did Ugly beautiful justice in his awkwardness while always being very clear with both words and impressive vocals.
Before the play even began I was enthralled with the fantastic set – a gigantic armchair, huge bulrushes, an oversized nest and even bigger egg. Then the characters appeared. The set design and costume teams were for me the biggest winners in this production. If you had presented me with images of this play and told me it was amateur theatre I would never have believed you. Fantastic (and remarkably quick and clear with their lines) ducklings in school uniform, complete with shower caps for swimming, padded legs and derrières for the poultry, splendidly feathered swans, and The Cat. Where do I begin with The Cat? Forget the amazing make-up and hair, forget his ‘Acme cat flap’ that ‘swings both ways’, and a brilliantly written character; David Adams was superb! Adams was by far the standout performer of the evening. His stage presence was irresistible, his voice, well…‘Wow!’ pretty much sums it up. Adams was hilarious, simply fantastic, and not too shabby with tap shoes on either. The entire performance was spent waiting for more of Adams, and then when he appeared with Rosanna Cennamo as housecat Queenie and Carmel Hendry as ‘domesticated’ hen Lowbutt, I was finished! Their song Together, following the brilliant It Takes All Sorts, combined (almost) all of the best of this production from performance to costume, from choreography to music. One could watch this show for Cennamo, Hendry and Adams alone – three fabulous performers to watch out for!
I may have gone on about cats, domesticated hens and their costuming, but I promise there was much more. Other supporting roles I must mention are; Sophie Kingsley’s voice, Chris Bruce’s Turkey who had some wonderful gobbly moments to laugh with, and all of the Geese who gave fantastic performances, kazoos and all, in The Wild Goose Chase. Most notably among these were Linda Folan’s (Dot) vocal determination in the face of a failed microphone, and Leo Gibbons as Greylag with his superb bass voice. The fantastic ‘country’ accents also gave a wonderful sense of atmosphere to this production.
Unfortunately, all of the fantastic performances I’ve just listed meant that the not so fantastic moments stuck out, a common problem (along with microphones/sound being frustratingly inconsistent) in am dram. While on the whole the chorus was brilliant and harmonised beautifully, especially in The Elegy and The Blizzard, they needed to be wary of shouting rather than singing, and of going sharp or flat every now and then. It may have had something to do with the accents that lent themselves to being nasal, but there was a fair amount of flat singing from performers who I know, from other productions, have lovely voices. It was a shame that talented performers let themselves down every now and then.
Yet while FFBOS’ production of Honk! had its flaws, the audience was in hysterics throughout and the applause should have begun before the play even started, simply for FFBOS deciding to take on such a mammoth project. The huge cast was managed excellently and I can only praise the team and community input it must have taken to create such a wonderfully entertaining show in only three months. FFBOS is doing great things in their community, including making them laugh with consistently engaging shows year round – to cast and crew, a huge ‘Well done!’.
- : admin
- : 01/04/2014