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An ugly duckling, with a twist
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Brenau University’s Mallory London, left, and Casey McLeroy are working with the Gainesville Theatre Alliance to produce “Honk” as part of their senior thesis.

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Listen as Brenau University senior Mallory London talks about the plot behind “Honk!,” a musical she has directed and set for performances tonight through Saturday.

‘Honk!’
A musical presented as part of the Gainesville Theatre Alliance’s Discovery Series
When: 7:30 tonight through Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Hosch Theater, Brenau University’s Burd Center for the Performing Arts, 429 Academy St., Gainesville
How much: Free

It’s the ultimate tale of acceptance, put to music.

As part of their senior thesis, Brenau University students Mallory London and Casey McLeroy are presenting “Honk!,” a twist on the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale, “The Ugly Duckling.”

Performances are set for tonight through Saturday in Hosch Theater at Brenau’s Burd Center for Performing Arts. The show, which is free to the public, also will be presented today for students at Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy.

“Honk!” is part of Gainesville Theatre Alliance’s Discovery Series.

“It’s a really cute script, it’s fun and it’s got a great message of acceptance and learning — that being different is OK and to embrace being different,” said Casey McLeroy, who performs in the play.

“We wanted something with a message ... and something that would challenge us as well.”

British song-writing duo Anthony Drewe and George Stiles penned the story’s musical adaptation, which debuted in England in the early 1990s.

“It follows the story of ‘The Ugly Duckling’ pretty faithfully,” said London, who directed the production.

The story centers around Ugly, the gawky, awkward duckling that grows into a swan. Other characters include Ugly’s parents and siblings, a cat that sees Ugly as a meal, a self-assured frog and a host of other lake-based animals.

“The only difference is (Ugly’s) relationship with his mother is key, as opposed to the mother shunning him as well,” London said. “So, (the musical) is about Ugly’s journey of accepting himself and then everyone else’s journey of accepting him.”

Each Brenau theater student has to complete a senior project before graduation.

“We decided to do a fully realized production,” said London, 22, a Cleveland native.

London approached McLeroy about the collaboration, said McLeroy, 22, of Watkinsville.

“We both had our own projects set aside, but we both discovered last year that theater for youth and young audiences is something that we’re both really interested in doing,” McLeroy said.

London said she has done mostly stage management and backstage work at Brenau.

“Directing is something I really wanted to get into,” she said. “... I decided that doing a show for children would be a really great opportunity for me to stretch myself in a new way and learn more about theater in a different manner.”

McLeroy took part in Gainesville Theatre Alliance’s WonderQuest production of “The Jungle Book.”

“I also taught a lot of musical theater classes when I was in high school for younger-age children,” she said. “... Even though I love doing musicals, my passion really lies in doing theater for youth and young audiences.”

Their paths may collide again after their May 8 graduation.

Both are planning to pursue teacher certification programs at Piedmont College in Demorest.

“It’s really funny — Casey and I have never been really that close, but now our lives are starting to follow the same path,” London said.

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