Show History



Honk! is based on the Hans Christian Anderson story "The Ugly Duckling", with music by George Stiles and book and lyrics by Anthony Drewe.  Drewe had been asked to write two other musicals based on Anderson stories with Jule Styne, Alain Boublil, and Claude-Michael Schoenberg. When those ideas fell through,however, Drewe still had owned the book of Anderson stories and was attracted to the message of acceptance and understanding from the story of "The Ugly Duckling". He contacted Stiles, with whom he had previously collaborated with on two projects, to write a musical based around the story. They expanded on the original story, adding many more characters (including a love interest for the main character.)


Honk!, a musical adaptation of the classic story of the ugly duckling, opened in 1993 at the Watermill Theatre in Newbury, England. It was originally titled The Ugly Duckling or the Aesthetically Changed Farmyard Fowl. Famous British stage actress and director Julia McKenzie took the show and persuaded Sir Alan Ayckbourn to open it at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarsborough. With a brand-new creative team, McKenzie was able to premiere the show on November 28, 1997. Then, in 1999, Sir Trevor Nunn invited McKenzie's production onto the Olivier stage at the Royal National Theatre making its West End debut on December 11, 1999. The show was eventually extended and ran until March 25, 2000.

The musical made its American premiere at the Helen Hayes Performing Arts Center in Nyack, NY, in February 2000. The same year, another production opened at the North Shore Music Theatre. It included a slightly re-written script that was more American oriented. Though it only ran three weeks, it inspired over 30 regional theaters around the country to include the show in their seasons. Since its premiere, it has been put up in over 8,000 productions all over the world.

Cultural Influence

  • Honk! was the first original British musical to ever be produced at the Royal National Theatre.