Photo by Alison James RMS students rehearse the opening number for “Honk!” which hits the stage Thursday and Friday.

RMS students stage “Honk”

To bring a message of self-love and tolerance to the Russellville City Schools stage, seventh and eighth grade performing arts students will present “Honk!” Thursday and Friday.

“We love this show,” said drama director Patrice Smith, who was first introduced to “Honk!” when she performed in it as a student at Northwest-Shoals Community College. “It’s such a cute, happy, sweet show.”

Sixty-two students make up the massive cast for “Honk!” which is a musical retelling of “The Ugly Duckling” – like Callie Palmer, who plays the Mother Duck named Ida. “It’s really upbeat and fun,” said Callie. Her favorite song is “The Joy of Motherhood.” “I sing a lot and sit on the nest, and then midway through the song there’s a music break and all the eggs hatch.”

Four of those 62 students work technology for the production, including lead tech Tino Soto. In tech, Tino works to help run sound checks, ensure proper operation of equipment and start/stop the music at the appropriate times. “I did it last year, and it was really fun doing the ‘Lion King,’” he said. “I think it’s going to be fun this year because this show is very different.”

“Honk!” was a hit in the U.K. but never gained popularity in the United States. As a lesser-known production, “Honk!” gives Smith and Rush the opportunity to really present the show the way they want, without having to take audiences’ preconceived expectations as much into account.

“We really can put our own spin on it,” Smith said.

Smith and Rush describe the show as fun, high energy and comical. It’s also one the community will connect with.

“It’s relatable to our community and our kids because it’s on a farm,” Rush pointed out.

“It’s full of farm humor,” Smith agreed. “People are really going to appreciate the jokes about the ducks and the chickens and the geese.”

And not just that – Rush and Smith said the show is also relatable particularly for the middle school cast because of its message of finding your place, embracing who you are and accepting others. “You have this little duck who looks different from everybody else, and everybody turns him away because of how he looks and how he sounds. Several of the songs really point to (the advice to) be who you are, love who you are, love each other for who you are, support each other and help each other,” Smith said. It’s a message, Rush added, that will ring familiar to younger audience members, as it mirrors an increased stand against bullying and call for kindness in the lower grades of Russellville City Schools.

“I’ve really loved it. I really enjoy the show. I think it’s hilarious,” said Cole Barnett, who plays Drake, the father duck. His favorite song is “Poultry Tale,” the barnyard’s bold opening number. “I get to sing alone and then I have all my friends up there to sing and dance along with me,” Cole said. “It’s just fun overall because everyone is involved in it except the little ducklings.”

The cast will also perform three special shows for fellow classmates at RMS as well as WES and RES students during the school day Friday – which is a great opportunity for the cast, as well as the young theater-goers who will make up the audience.

“There’s nothing better than performing for the little ones. It’s so magical for them,” Smith said. “And our kids get to feel how special it really is when you have a room full of 800 (young students) –” who, Rush added, “think you’re the coolest thing that has ever walked through RCS doors.”

The songs bring a jazzy, traditional Broadway sound to the stage. “It has several really big numbers in it,” Rush said. “There’s never a dull moment in the show.”

Tickets for the show will be $5 at the door. Doors will open at 6 p.m. for the 6:30 p.m. show.

“This is a wonderful showcase of what is right in our system … and what kids can do when you put them together and put those creative minds together,” Smith said.

The performing arts program is now soliciting sponsorships for the production, which costs the program several thousand dollars to rent in lights and sound, set props and costumes, plus purchase the show kit, not to mention dozens of smaller ancillary expenses. Sponsorship levels are available from $35 to $1,000+. All sponsorships are due no later than April 25, with checks made payable to Russellville Middle School, and sponsors will be listed in the program. Additionally, parents and family members may purchase $5 “Shout Outs” to be included in the program, a special message for a performer. Shout Outs are due by April 26. Call 256-331-2110 for more information.

 

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