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“HONK!” to show audiences that differences are good

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Being different is good. It’s a message we hear frequently, and is one that resonates with people of all ages. CATCO’s production of “HONK!” aims to bring that message to the stage.

“HONK!” is a musical adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s story “The Ugly Duckling.” Ugly, the main character, is ridiculed for being different from all the other ducklings. He sounds different and looks different, but by the love of his mother and his own personal journey, he begins to see his differences as positive rather than negative.

Jeff Hurst, the director of “HONK!” and an Ohio State alumnus, said this show has something for people of all ages.

“This show is about one character’s journey to find out who he is, which is very similar to everybody in their life. Ugly meets very different people along the way, just like in our own lives, and he’s finding out what truly matters and who is real friends are, and I think this is a message that can ring true for everybody in life,” Hurst said.

CATCO associate producing director Joe Bishara said it was time for “HONK!” to come to the Columbus Performing Arts Center, located at 549 Franklin Ave., as a part of the CATCO is Kids season.

When CATCO began managing the Columbus Performing Arts Center, which houses the Shedd Theater, on behalf of Columbus Recreation and Parks six years ago, Bishara said its first production was a junior version of “HONK!”

“I love this show, I have a very long history with this show,” Bishara said. “The first time it was ever produced in Virginia, I was in it. I played the ugly duckling.”

Bishara said this is the first time “HONK!” will be a multi-generational production, with a cast of six adults and children ranging in age from elementary school to high school.

He said he specifically enjoyed getting to work with children.

“It’s neat to watch them put the pieces together,” Bishara said.

Bishara, who is often a director at CATCO, said he wanted Hurst to direct this show rather than doing it himself because he felt it was a good fit.

“Jeff is an exceptional artist. I think it’s really important for young artists to have the opportunity to collaborate with a variety of adult instructors because I think they can learn something different from a different person,” Bishara said.

Ashley Robbe — who plays the mother hen, Ida — said this role is a dream for her.

“Because it’s basically my life at home. I was really, really excited,” Robbe said.

Having two children of her own, Robbe said she has enjoyed getting to play Ida because it’s something she knows very well.

“It’s probably been my most favorite show I’ve been in, in a very long time. All the little ducklings say ‘mommy’ when I come in for the rehearsals,” Robbe said.

Robbe said HONK! has a powerful message for both kids and adults.

“For kids, being different isn’t necessarily so bad and no matter what you’re going through, just keep pushing through and you’ll make it through, everything is going to be OK. Just cling to the ones who love you and look to your family and friends for help,” Robbe said.

Performances are set to take place Friday through Sunday and then May 8 through May 10. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children.

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