William Richardson (right), choreographer and stage director, instructs the YouTheatre cast Saturday, May 3 during the rehearsal for their upcoming
William Richardson (right), choreographer and stage director, instructs the YouTheatre cast Saturday, May 3 during the rehearsal for their upcoming musical, Honk! JR. at the Egyptian Theatre. (Christopher Reeves/Park Record)

When Mary Anderson-Bailey was in college, she performed in "Honk!" at the Utah Musical Theatre in Ogden,

It was one of the first productions she did and she liked the story, which was based on Hans Christian Andersen's "The Ugly Duckling," and the script.

"I was drawn to it when I first performed it because of the great writing and lyrics," Anderson-Bailey said during an interview with The Park Record. "Then the message that came out of it rang true and stuck with me."

She also liked the musical's message.

"The theme of the show is celebrating everyone's unique individuality and noticing that everyone has their own eccentricities, beauty and even a dark side," Anderson-Bailey said. "The idea to tell it through a known children's fable and make the message accessible for people is what I think musical theater is all about."

These are the reasons why Anderson-Bailey is excited to be the director of the Egyptian Theatre's YouTheatre production of "Honk! Jr.," a children's version of "Honk!," written by George Stiles and Anthony Drew, that will be performed May 9 and May 10.

"As an adult, you do a lot of serious theatre and you are able to break out of that a little with musicals," she said. "'Honk!' is a whole different animal. It has a witty script and when they turned it into the junior version, they managed to keep much of that wit intact. It's perfect for YouTheatre because it's a show where we can reach moms and dads as well as sisters and brothers of all ages."

Anderson-Bailey's vision for the upcoming production was simple,

"We've gone completely non-literal (interpretations) with the animals," she said. "They have been humanized quite a bit, but their costumes, movements and vocalizations are representative of what animals they are."

That philosophy has bled into the set design.

"It's all pretty minimal," Anderson-Bailey said. "For example the eggs that the ducklings hatch out of are not really eggs, but suitcases.

Olivia Henry (right) rehearses some lines Saturday, May 3 to cast members playing ugly ducklings in the upcoming YouTheatre musical Honk! JR. at the
Olivia Henry (right) rehearses some lines Saturday, May 3 to cast members playing ugly ducklings in the upcoming YouTheatre musical Honk! JR. at the Egyptian Theatre. (Christopher Reeves/Park Record)
It's like as if a stork dropped them and all of their belongings off on the porch."

In addition, the production's design team has put together an elaborate multi-media element for the show.

"This is something the Egyptian Theatre has been pushing towards, but we're taking it a step further," Anderson-Bailey said. "I wanted to try and make it a different experience for the kids than they have had in previous productions."

In preparing the kids for their roles, Anderson-Bailey asked the cast what it meant to be unique.

"I also asked them what it means to find what those attributes are and how to celebrate them," she said. "Many people aren't too proud of their dark sides, and we have been exploring that with the kids. In fact, there's a song that a bullfrog sings called 'Warts and All' and is about accepting yourself."

Anderson-Bailey approached YouTheatre director Jamie Wilcox last summer to see if she needed someone to direct the spring musical.

"Jamie left it open to give her ideas of what production to do," Anderson-Bailey said. "Since I was extremely familiar with 'Honk!' beforehand, I suggested it and became very excited Jamie got on board and wanted to do the junior version."

The cast started rehearsing at the end of February.

"YouTheatre holds their rehearsals in a different way than most companies," Anderson-Bailey said. "For the first two months, they rehearse Tuesdays and Thursdays for 2 ½ hours a night and during the third month, we pick up Saturday rehearsals.

YouTheatre’s "Honk! Jr." rehearsal at the Egyptian Theatre, Saturday, May 3. (Christopher Reeves/The Park Record)
YouTheatre's "Honk! Jr." rehearsal at the Egyptian Theatre, Saturday, May 3. (Christopher Reeves/The Park Record)

"It seems like a long process, but we're not rehearsing any more than a lot of productions," she said. "It's just our rehearsals are spanned across a different set of days."

The schedule does pose some logistical scheduling challenges, but also has its perks.

"We have found that the roles stick in the kids' brains for a long time," she said.

There are 26 kids in the production, which is actually a smaller cast than usual.

"The average number of kids in past casts have been around 30, but 26 has been a good number," Anderson-Bailey said with a laugh.

Anderson-Bailey has been acting, directing and musical directing for the past 14 years.

"I graduated from Weber State University with a Bachelor's degree in musical theater and went right to work at Utah Musical Theatre," she said. "I worked for three years and ended up being their resident musical director for a season."

Since then, she has freelanced as an actor and music director.

"I got involved with the Egyptian Theatre a year and a half ago and my first show with them was 'Dear Edwina' as musical director," Anderson-Bailey said. "Then I worked with the YouTheatre summer camps teaching various camp classes and served as the music director for last summer's 'Mid-summer Night's Dream' and 'Pipi Longstocking' last fall."

This is the first time she is directing a production for YouTheatre.

"I'm also the music director for the show as well, so this is the first show I'm double dipping," Anderson-Bailey said. "I made a mistake in my judgment and thought it would be cake."

Then she realized just because she's taking on both duties, didn't mean she would have extra time.

"It became a challenge to me to organize my time efficiently for myself, but still giving time for the kids to learn everything adequately," she said. "In the end, I think it has worked out well."

The show's choreographer, William Richardson, who is also the show's stage manager, has worked with Anderson-Bailey as a directing-unit team.

"We've been able to cross over each other's lines of duties and make this an efficient process," she said. "In addition, we've been able to utilize three of our older cast members to become directing assistant, a vocal captain and a dance captain.

"That has helped quite a bit, because we have been able to rely on them to work with groups we can't get to and it's been a big help to them to learn how to do those things," Anderson-Bailey said.

"This is a fun show and I hope people will come," she said.

The Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St., will present its YouTheatre production of "Honk! Jr.," a musical retelling of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Ugly Duckling" on Friday, May 9, and Saturday, May 10. Evening curtain is 7 p.m. and a Saturday matinee will begin at 2 p.m. Tickets are $14 for adults ad $9 for youths. For more information and tickets visit www.parkcityshows.com.