by Terrance V. Mc Arthur
The traditional Hansel and Gretel story pits the wily, evil stepmother against two innocent, yet resourceful, children, who try to outwit her plans to get rid of them.
The script of Hansel and Gretel on stage at The Enchanted Playhouse in Visalia is a kinder, gentler tale, where the wandering children are the result of a lapse in judgment by a loving but frustrated mother, pushed to the edge by a son who doesn’t care if the family is poor, he wants what he wants when he wants it. I was thinking…This is a child who deserves to get eaten.
Hansel and Gretel have to have the right stuffing, or the whole play falls flat. Hannah Suggs does most of the work as Gretel, but Seth Monty gets first billing as Hansel. (Gretel is the smart one. Why isn’t it Gretel and Hansel? It’s blatant sexism!) Hannah has a good, strong singing voice, and she puts in the proper I’m-the-self-sacrificing-big-sister quality without getting mean or obnoxious. Seth gets to whine and throw tantrums and get applause. What boy could ask for more?
The Three Pigs have their Big Bad Wolf, Harry Potter has his Voldemort, and Hansel and Gretel have The Gingerbread Witch. Jennifer Cawley’s name on the Enchanted Playhouse playbill brings a smile to my face, because she does not disappoint. Here, she’s a curvy, swervy villainess played somewhere between Margaret Hamilton (The Wizard of Oz) and Billie Hayes (H. R. Pufnstuf). She has a Quidditch-ready broom with a Harley-Davidson roar, thanks to sound/lighting designer Sean McMichael.
Andrew Rozan and Zane Murphy get to be goofy and silly as goblins Frick and Frack, more-bumbling-than-evil servants of the witch. With beastly faces and stringy costumes that wave in counterpoint to their hulking movements, they brighten every scene they steal. The goblin attire is just one highlight of Barbara Smith and Jolene Ringhofer’s costume work, including the G.W.’s patterned bloomers and the forest-pastel tutu of the Dew Princess (Angela Rozum).
Matt Hamilton pulled double duty as Father and the Father-Christmas-bearded Sandman, while Samantha Muse lit up the stage in the thankless role of Mother. Speaking of lighting up the stage, attention must be paid to the smallest of the children-turned-into-gingerbread-men, Beatrice Du Toit. She’s cute, she speaks clearly, and she’s Samantha Muse’s daughter.
The trip into a fairy-tale world starts before the show begins. The forest foliage in front of the stage blends on up to the auditorium ceiling, a tribute to the designs of Mark Court and Donald Williams. Williams also directed, and my mother always said, “If the show is bad, the director gets the blame, but if the show is good, the actors get all the credit.” The actors were great!
Hansel and Gretel continues with 7 p.m. shows on October 5, 6, 12, and 13, and a 2 p.m. matinee October 7. Adult admission is $10, and children’s tickets are $8. The Enchanted Playhouse Theatre Company is located at The Main Street Theatre, 307 E. Main in Visalia. For information, call (559) 739-4600.
It’s a sweet treat, without a breadcrumb in sight!
Check back every Wednesday evening for a new Local Live and learn more about the Enchanted Playhouse in this KRL article.