by Terrance Mc Arthur
Children’s theatre helps young audiences learn how to act at a live performance, and helps performers learn confidence, how to express themselves, and control. The Enchanted Playhouse production of The Elves and the Shoemaker in Visalia is a good example of this.
Lori Phillips-Young’s post-modern version, the story is reconstructed with commentary on the storytelling process and the relation between story collectors and the original stories. When Jacob Grimm (Josiah Miller) finds himself magically transported to the shop of Hans the Shoemaker (Tristan Dakota Robinson), he is surprised to find the man (and some creatures Jacob can’t see) upset with his version of the story of the Elves and the Shoemaker. Hans says Grimm got it all wrong, and proceeds to explain the true story of a group of lost elves trying to do good deeds to get the map they need to lead them home.
Miller is tall and lanky, quick and angular and, cocky and sure of himself, but Grimm isn’t as able to understand things as he thinks he is. He jumps to conclusions, simplifies important things, and earns the wrath of the elves.
Robinson is a teddy-bearish figure, big and earnest with large gestures, trying to keep the elves happy and correct Grimm’s revisions of the tale. Robinson portrays frustration well. Misti Mata gives him a loving wife to play off of, supporting him and suggesting courses of action. Kiaya Nichelle Baiza and Kassidi Clark are busy and helpful as the shoemaker’s daughters. Luciano Noguero is a standout who doesn’t get to stand up, much, as an expressive dog who gets so tired of barking and Lassie-style pantomiming that it talks (at least to the audience).
The seven elves (not the two that Grimm wrote about) are a lively group, a mob of differing personalities, from authoritative to goofy, from optimistic to gloomy and prone to fainting. Stefania Sesock has an earnest manner, and Isabella Saenz plays an elf who doesn’t see the glass as half-full; it has to be cleaned. Tiffanie Amber Nicole Shaw is a ditsy elf who has trouble with numbers, and Joshua Zsido (who recently played Piglet) is perky, pert, and petite.
Brandi Martin sashays in as a townswoman who swoops and gushes her way through life. Directors Debbie Martin and Kelly Ventura keep things moving and take advantage of the comic opportunities. It’s all good fun, and might send you back to a fairytale anthology to find out what Grimm really wrote.
The Elves and the Shoemaker plays through December 13 at the Main Street Theatre, 307 E. Main St., Visalia. Call 559.739.4600 or go to their website for tickets.
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