Skip to main content

When Ugly Duckling Meets the Frog Prince: A Behind the Scenes Story for “Hop and Honk” by I Theatre

A "Behind-the-Scenes" Story written for local family portal Little Day Out.

Little Day Out chats with I Theatre’s Artistic Director Brian Seward to understand how a “Broadway-style” musical is created following the matchmaking of two traditional fairy tales.
 Transformation. That’s the key commonality between The Ugly Duckling and The Frog Prince.

When I Theatre’s Brian Seward was contemplating about which story to adapt into a musical, he read both these stories one after another, and realised the following elements: Both characters had a transformation, and both had a journey; with trials and tribulations. They both lived in the same environment - a riverbank, or a pond, and had the same neighbours, friends and enemies. Allowing his creative juices to flow, Seward considered the following possibility:

“I wondered what would happen if they met each other, and how they might help and guide one another. Everything fell very surprisingly into place. When I began to explore the back-stories of each creature, it became clear that there may have been connections between the two quite far back, even before the birth of the duckling, or the transformation of the Prince into a Frog!”

It was then that Hop and Honk was born. Notwithstanding the different roots of the two fairy tales (The Ugly Duckling was written by Danish storyteller Hans Christian Anderson while The Frog Prince was a creation of the German Brothers Grimm), Seward  felt that both stories, stripped of their styles, actually came together nicely. Moreover, he realised that each story actually answered some questions raised by the other story!

So the creative process began, and Seward started some imaginative work stringing together the “missing” parts of each story, making a few minor adjustments here and there to ensure that the entire storyline maintains congruence. It was then a matter of transforming the revised storyline into a musical with songs and dance.

Seward describes the process in this manner: “The story has to be clear. We have to identify the key points where a song can effectively help the story along. The characters must all have a clear purpose. The story should not be too complex or depressing. It should be long enough, with enough depth to tell through not just acting, but music, song,  [and] dance.”

To ensure that the transformation was smooth, Seward engaged the help of top composers Belinda Foo and Julian Wong. Belinda Foo has been in the music industry for the last 25 years, involved with arranging and writing commercial music as well as working as a pianist and music director for various performances and musicals. As for Julian Wong, he began his musical studies at the age of 4, and has written the scores for numerous musical productions and theatre festivals both locally and overseas.

Seward then ensured that the dancing and singing were of a high standard, using the songs as the means of storytelling. Describing Hop and Honk to be in the “best Broadway and West End tradition”, Seward mentioned that there will be something special for everyone.

“We have classic baddies, who come to a sticky end, we have Princesses, Kings, Princes, a wedding, kidnapping, chases, a frog chorus... and a happy, but very unexpected ending - everything - and maybe even more than you would have in any Broadway or West End musical!”

But the raison d’etre of every I Theatre production is the key themes that provide meaning to the story. For Hop and Honk, the natural theme is that of “fitting in”, with an “ugly” duckling who is rejected by her peers, her siblings and even her teacher; and a Frog Prince who no longer fits in the human world but who also doesn’t fit in the animal kingdom.

Seward however maintains that there are deeper issues that influence the actions and decisions of the key characters. “There are situations that parents may find themselves facing, and having to deal with. There are questions of identity, bullying, destiny, decision-making...”

So will the Ugly Duckling and the Frog Prince find their “traditional” happy ending? Seward hints to Little Day Out that things may not just end the way they are supposed to.

“There are always questions when you read traditional folk tales and fairy tales of 'what if...' the characters made a different decision, or decided to go on another path? How would that effect the outcome? Would they reach their happy ending, or would something else happen? Suddenly the ending is NOT clear, and you really have to wait and see what happens next!”

The Little Day Out story can be found here. Hope and Honk will be appearing at the Drama Centre Theatre (National Library Building) from 29 October to 15 November. It  is recommended for families and specifically for those aged 4 to 104.


  1. I like watching plays as theatre reflects real life. Many meaningful lessons can be learnt from watching plays.

  2. I enjoy watching children's plays with my boys, seeing their eyes lit up in wonder, chuckle in delight, chat gaily about the funny characters and the touching moments. It is a great family bonding activity!


  3. i like to bring my kids to watch plays so that they be able to see their favourite stories come to live and how it is being interpreted

    Jaime Chan

  4. Watching plays is an excellent way for children to see stories come alive. Many children, like mine, are visual learners and I love how plays are able to convey the story in a way that reading can't!

  5. I like watching plays because theatre plays bring out the key essence of the message of a story. I also enjoy the interaction from the performers in theatre plays!

    Gordon Ngiam

  6. I like watching play because it is good for children to see stories come in 'live'and fun way :-)

    Kaye Wong

  7. Personally, I like to watch play as it brings another dimension to the story by making it comes alive.
    Meaningful plays for the kids are edutainment. They remember better when it's fun and catch the underlying morals without themselves realising it.

    Thanks for the giveaway!

  8. I love plays and musicals because it is both educational yet provides great entertainment and imagination for the little ones. Nowadays they are more keen on "how did they do that (effect)?" during each show. It keeps them focused and thinking.

    Shirley Yong

  9. Plays are not only entertaining, there's much vocab and sentence structures to learn out of it.

  10. We love plays because it's educational and entertaining. It can help my child to learn something from every play.

    Irene Fock

  11. I love plays because they are so entertaining for the kids. It is great to see their favorite story comes to live on stage.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Malacca with the Kids: March 2015

Malacca has always been our go-to place for a short getaway. Most of the time, it's been without the kids. We love soaking in the ambience of Jonker Street and strolling by the river. Of course, the food never fails to draw us back to this laidback town with its sleepy atmosphere. The facade of Malacca has, however, changed over the years. Imposing mega malls loom over two-storey shophouses. I would probably have not brought the boys along as the streets are narrow and traffic seemingly never ebbing, but when I googled "Malacca for Kids" this time round, there were quite a few options for the kids to enjoy. Of course, the main reason why we decided to go was because we were attending my dearest  cousin's wedding dinner. This brings back memories of how my cousins and I used to hang around at Chinese restaurants. We would be so thrilled to be on an actual stage... And our choice of accommodation was largely influenced by the water play area which our hot

Setting Up a Finnish School in the Home

The issue of private tuition has again come to the forefront after a senior education official pronounced in parliament that the Singapore education system is "run on the basis that tuition is not necessary". Ms Indranee Rajah, Senior Minister of State for Education, added that schools provide "comprehensive levelling-up programmes" as well as remedial and supplementary classes to support weaker students. In the days that followed, mainstream and social media agencies were abuzz with reports from parents and students alike, many of whom disagreed with Ms Indranee's assessment of the education scene. They argued that private tuition is already a multi-million dollar industry, and that its very existence disputes notions that tuition is unnecessary. From the perspective of an educator in Singapore, I can understand the comments made by the Senior Minister of State, especially since it is the responsibility of the Education Ministry to teach our school childre

"Monkeying Around": A Review of My Gym Singapore

Our 2/1/2-year old son E has always been an active child. When he was an infant, E would crawl around and get into all sorts of mischief, until one day when he discovered that he could climb on  his poor Daddy, in an inspired moment of pretend play - Daddy was his mountain and he was Sir Edmund Hilary - the first person to scale Mt Everest! It was therefore with great excitement that we we heard that Parenting on Purpose had been invited by My Gym Singapore  to participate in a series of four classes. We agreed at once; knowing that our little boy would thoroughly enjoy gym class - this was also a chance for our exuberant toddler to work off his energy and hopefully fall fast asleep after getting home. Our little son having a swing of a time at gym class.  My Gym  has an interesting educational philosophy that emphasises building self esteem in children. This is an excerpt from the company's website: The philosophy that guides My Gym’s programming and breakdown for clas

Schooling for Gold: a Parent Reflects on Singapore's First Olympic Gold Medallist

50.39 seconds. The (less than) one minute of time that made history for the small island nation of Singapore. Millions in Singapore and around the world watched as 21-year-old Joseph Schooling defeated his long-time idol and heavily-decorated Olympian Michael Phelps, the man described as "the most-decorated Olympian of all time". Indeed most of the international news footage had been previously focussed on Phelps, given that the American is expected to retire at this year's Rio Olympics. The New York Times even ran an article with the headline: " Somebody (His Name’s Joseph Schooling) Finally Beats Michael Phelps"! For Joseph Schooling, it could not have been a prouder moment, as he not only bagged Singapore's first and only Olympic Gold, it was also a race that proved he had not only matched, but also beaten his childhood idol. Indeed a 2008 photograph of 13-year-old Schooling standing side by side with Michael Phelps has been spreading like wildfire o

Hong Kong for Kids: Our Dorsett Wanchai Experience

It was only a few months back when we had our lovely holiday experience in Hong Kong. We had then stayed in the Cosmopolitan Hotel, a lovely place located at the northern tip of Hong Kong island, near the world-famous Ocean Park. Most people have asked us why we chose Hong Kong as a destination for our kids given the island's reputation as more of a food and shopping paradise. We shared with them that there is actually more than meets the eye to this territory known affectionately as the "Pearl of the Orient".  The view from Stanley, one of our favourite spots in the beautiful city of Hong Kong. Rooms in Hong Kong are small, and we had a hard time looking for a place to stay that could meet the needs of our two very energetic children. We settled for the Cosmopolitan Hotel, given that it was one of the few hotels that had affordable prices for its Family Quad Room, a large room that could accommodate all four of us comfortably. We were pleasantly surprised when we r

A Safe Space: Adventures in Fostering

Fostering challenges traditional notions of what a family is and what a family should be. At the end of the day, what is your idea of "family"? The younger child seemed a little troubled during bedtime. "Mummy..." he said. "Yes Darling," replied Mummy. "It will be very sad when R has to go home to the tummy mummy and daddy one day."  "Yes, Darling. It will be very sad." "But it's all up to God, right?" "Yes it is. You know that R's tummy mummy and daddy can't take care of any child right now? That's why R is with us." "Yes I know. R is with us just for awhile. Not like Kor Kor and I. The four of us are a forever family." "Yes we are. So how will you feel when R goes back to the tummy mummy and daddy?" "It will be sad, but it will be all right." The older child, who was a silent participant in the conversation, decided to speak at th

The Father I Will Never Be

We recently went on a holiday to Fraser's Hill, one of the less-visited places in Malaysia. For Sue and I, this is a place that is filled with memories. It was, for her, a childhood oasis, a place where her family would visit year after year, and build many precious memories together. It was, for me, a special place where I visited with a band of dear brothers during our university days, and where we set a stake in the ground, to declare that we wanted to surrender all of our days to the glory of God. It was, for Sue and I, the location of our honeymoon, the place where we enjoyed our first few days of marital bliss; the place where we chiselled our marriage covenant and planned for our future as one.  This is how I remember Fraser's Hill. Shrouded in mist and somewhat mysterious; a grand legacy of days gone by. I remember my first visit there as a single young man, not yet a quarter of a century old, but yet imbued with the desire to be the best father I could be sho

The Insecurities of a Homeschooling Dad

Social media can be very deceiving. We scroll through the news feeds of people we know (or of celebrity bloggers and content experts), and assume that they are living perfect lives. With every holiday photo they post, every food picture presented, or every insightful article they write, we slip into social media envy and  assume that our friends are enjoying the time of their lives. And many people assume that of me as well. They seem to think that I am living the dream life with a wonderful job and wonderful kids. And when I meet people at my various engagements, I seem to get the nod that I am the model citizen of social media society.  A recent holiday in Disneyland. After long queues under the hot sun, we were quite the "model" family! There is some truth to this. At this moment, I can say that there is no other job I would rather do; to be my own boss and to conduct training workshops for others, sometimes with my wife; what more could a man ask for? And my kids? T

Parenting Your Child for Marriage

It's not often that the Father of the Bride gets to speak at a wedding. Oftentimes, the only words are in response to the question, "Who presents this woman to be married to this man?" In that instance, it is normally a mild-mannered man, one who shuns the attention of the moment, who barely manages to whisper out the refrain, "I do."  A precious photo of a very special couple.  This was completely not what happened at a wedding I was at almost three weeks ago. In response to that question, the Father of the Bride seemed to have an entire speech prepared for the Groom, "I present to you the key to my daughter's heart, " he declared. "I have protected her heart all her life until this point, and now I am handing over this responsibility to you." And with a firm voice, he presented this solemn reminder: "Remember that you will not be able to do this on your own, but only with God's help, and by spending time with Him daily.&

Running the Race of Shame

Every muscle in my body protested. Every inner voice in my being screamed from the recesses within. "Don't do it!" they yelled.   "You will make a fool of yourself!" they taunted. "Why are you so stupid? Why do you want to prove to the whole world how stupid you are?" "You know that you are a colossal failure. Now you want everyone in the world to see what a loser you are?" It was deafening deep within. But I did what I could to ignore the deep shame and hurt that I felt from within. The voices of shame can be deafening even in the presence of an external quietness. "The next event will be the Parents' Race. Will  Mark Lim please proceed to the reporting area?" This was it. There would be no turning back now.  So I dragged myself to the starting line, and mingled with the other homeschool dads who all looked eager to race. "I haven't done any running since I was in National Service," I remark