In the center of the stage, large white eggs begin to hatch and Ida’s brood of baby ducks emerge all yellow and orange and quacking — just like she expected.
But there is one odd and dark egg left to hatch, and when it does, the gray bird inside quickly realizes he’s different.
Thus begins “Honk Jr.,” now in production at Smithton Middle School. It’s a children’s version of the British production of “Honk,” an adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Ugly Duckling.”
In “Honk Jr.,” the outcast duck, Ugly, honks instead of quacks and is ridiculed by all. While running from intolerance and a hungry feline named Cat, Ugly meets a range of characters — some who help, and others who bring only trouble.
When the play is performed this week, it will conclude months of hard work and after-school hours put in by almost 50 sixth- and seventh-graders, directors Donna Moessner and Lynn Hagen, and technical director Jon Thornhill.
“I do it all for them,” Moessner said of the long hours.
Moessner’s experience in high school doing musical theater sparked her love of the craft and was one of the reasons she became a theater teacher. She wants to offer students those same good experiences.
Leah Franklin plays one of the lead roles, mother duck Ida, in two of the four performances. At their first dress rehearsal Monday night, Leah sang — and almost more impressively, climbed on and off the large egg prop with ease.
“I am excited about all my friends getting to hear me sing,” Leah said.
Meanwhile, students worked backstage taking props on and off while others waited in the hallway for their next cue. All in costume, it was a farmyard full of excitement.
Rose Dolezal plays the deceiving Cat, who wants to eat Ugly for lunch. Her sweet voice and subtle mischievousness make Cat a fun character to watch.
“It’s most fun to be pouty in the goose chase,” she said.
Performances of “Honk Jr.” will be at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and a 1:30 p.m. matinee Saturday at the school, 3600 W. Worley St. Tickets are $4.