Concern has been expressed that the only visual difference between Cheo Bourne, who plays the Ugly Duckling, and the other ducklings is his costume, his height, and that he is African American. We want to respond to these concerns.
The costume was a deliberate design choice - after all, he is a swan and not a duck. Cheo’s height and race were not the reason he was cast in the role. He was the best actor who auditioned for the part. And we are confident you will find his performance stellar.
WFT understands, given the insidious nature of racism endemic in our society, the fact that Cheo is African American has the potential to send the wrong message. We concur with Anthony Drewe, who wrote HONK!’s book and lyrics, that: “The principle theme of the show is clearly the acceptance of others who may appear different for whatever reason. The main message we wanted the audience to go away with was that difference is OK,. It is something to be welcomed, embraced, and celebrated rather than feared, misunderstood, or persecuted.” That has always been the message of the Wheelock Family Theatre and we joyously present it once again in HONK!
Susan Kosoff, Producer