Starstruck stages tale of ugly duckling in Fremont

Youth theater group performs at Ohlone College
by Todd R. Brown, Staff Writer
Fremont Argus – January 12, 2008

FREMONT — A musical based on the 19th-century Danish fairy tale about how inner beauty trumps mere good looks is gracing the stage at Ohlone College’s Smith Center.

“Honk!” based on Hans Christian Andersen’s classic story of an ugly duckling that transforms into a sightly swan, runs through January thanks to StarStruck Theatre, a 12-year-old youth performance group based in Fremont.

Hawa Foster, 14, of Livermore plays Bullfrog, who befriends the main character when no one else seems willing.

The role is a step up for Hawa, who last year appeared in StarStruck’s version of “Beauty and the Beast” as Creamer — as in coffee creamer.

“This is my first year where I have lines,” Hawa said, noting that she got to waltz and salsa last time. “I don’t do much dancing, but I do a lot of singing.”

Her mother, Karen Foster, 50, said Hawa got the acting itch when they saw the nonprofit theater group’s production of “Peter Pan” in January 2007 at Ohlone.

“She walked out of there saying, ‘I’ve got to do this,'” said Karen Foster, who works for a teacher-training nonprofit. “What I love most about this company is the family-like atmosphere. The older kids take care of the younger kids. The adults are nothing but positive.”

Alicia Jones, StarStruck’s publicity manager, said the cast of about 50 hasbeen at work on “Honk!’ since October. They range from 7 to 20 years old.

Her son James Jones, 15, of Fremont plays Tom Cat, a “cool, conniving” cat he based partly on Paul Le Mat’s greaser character in “American Graffiti.” The cat, who hungers for a taste of Ugly, loses that cool when the duckling morphs into a swan.

“My director just told me … just relax, have fun with it,” said James Jones, who started with the group a few years ago as a snail in a version of the “Frog and Toad” story.

For “Honk!” he also prepared for his retro cool cat by searching YouTube videos for the term “beatniks.”

Alicia Jones, 43, who works in administration for the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, said she is a fan of StarStruck on several levels and championed the latest show as a fine family alternative to San Francisco entertainment.

“It’s like going up to the Orpheum,” she said. “You have a great local theater right here. Just because it’s a youth theater — you’d be surprised at (how) these kids, they will really bring you into the story.”

The group’s next production, “42nd Street,” is set for August at Ohlone, and auditions are happening now.

Staff writer Todd R. Brown covers Newark, Ohlone College and ethnic community issues. Reach him at 510-353-7004 or todd.brown@bayareanewsgroup.com.