“March 22 was the 50th anniversary of the first opening night when we were called the Santa Clara Junior Theatre before we were called the Roberta Jones Junior Theatre (www.rjjt.org),” said Kevin Cornelius, Recreation Supervisor for the Santa Clara City Parks and Recreation Department. “The first show was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Roberta Jones started the theater and she ran it for 32 years.”
According to Cornelius, Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor declared March 22 as “Roberta Jones Junior Theatre Day” in honor of the theatre’s gold anniversary.
At the dress rehearsal shortly before the March 22 opening night of “Honk,” an animated cast of young people put their best dancing feet forward in a musical depicting a story that channeled elements from the children’s classic, “The Ugly Duckling.” The show sheds light on the subjectivity that comes into play when one evaluates who is attractive or unattractive. “Honk” will run through March 31.
Nicky Caldwell, 17, played Ugly, the “ugly duckling.” Before coming into his own, Ugly let others define his physical appeal.
“Ugly has a really interesting character arc,” Caldwell said. “When he starts off, he’s really naive. He’s a newborn. He has no perception of what ugly and attractiveness is. He lets his natural and joyful personality show through. When he meets the characters at the duckyard, he decides they must be correct, that he must be ugly. It isn’t until he becomes a swan, when his beauty on the outside matches his beauty on the inside, that he realizes what’s inside is what counts.”
After Ugly rescued the swan, Penny (Serena Van Scherpe), from a fishing line, Penny affectionately told Ugly to look at his reflection. Penny’s perspective of Ugly was different from how Ugly’s peers back at the duckyard saw him.
Also valuing Ugly as an individual in spite of his physical appearance was his mother, Ida, played by Norah Havlice. But the proud Drake (Jack Lingscheit), Ugly’s father, questioned whether Ugly was really his son.
“I think Drake wants his family to look perfect,” Havlice said. “He wants to have a reputation for having the best-looking family on the lake and Ugly was ruining that for him. Ida thinks that looks don’t matter — it’s what on the inside that counts. She was trying to convince her family and everybody in the duckyard that it doesn’t matter that her child looks different from the rest of them.”
Bullfrog, played by Lana Satana, told Ugly, “One day it will be us who are the flavor of the month,” thus hinting that what is unattractive to one can be attractive to another. Leading the musical number “Warts and All” with other cast members, Bullfrog continued to share the message of self-acceptance.
“Bullfrog thinks that Ugly should be more confident with himself and accept who he is,” Satana said. “And he also believes that someone will find Ugly and accept him for who he is as well.”