There are many children’s theater companies in our area. I’ve seen some of their productions, and – with a few exceptions – they are of a quality that only family and friends would enjoy. This was something different. Unlike other El Dorado Musical Theatre productions that feature professional or near-professional quality performers up to age 20, this “Rising Star” show is limited to kids 6 to 13 years of age. But it is an absolutely delightful experience, so bring your kids or grandkids if you have them, but don’t stay away if you have no young family to bring. Any grown-up will find a lot to like about Honk! Jr. The writing is witty and the music is engaging, but what EDMT has done with this raw material makes all the difference.
I counted 60 kids in the cast, and when they are all on stage, doing their choreographed moves and singing together, it’s impressive – and remarkable – considering how young many of them are. Of course, that tender age translates into child voices that can’t match the quality of older kids when singing solos – with several notable exceptions (Madison Sykes as Ida, for one). And the acting of some of these young people made me think of child stars in times past. Zach Wilson, for example, a veteran of years with the older EDMT players, was brilliant as Ugly (the ugly duckling who becomes a swan), in his acting, dancing and singing. Also impressive were Ireland Bonds as the cat (fascinating to watch!) and Russell Anderson as the militaristic head goose: British accent, soldierly bearing and all. But there were so many others among these young actors and singers who brimmed with on-stage personality and added to the fun of it all.
It was the hand of the adult Director and Choreographer, Kat Bahry, and her numerous assistants and the others responsible for set, costumes, etc. that really gave these young kids the opportunity to shine. And there were wonderfully creative staging ideas throughout that kept the audience engaged (and delighted). This show is loaded with cute, but that’s not the only reason for coming. It is quality entertainment for the whole family, and everyone should attend to see just how good children’s theater can be.