Quintessence Theatre has outdone itself once again by bringing the classic children’s tale HANSEL AND GRETEL vibrantly into the 21st century, while keeping the spirit of the original 1812 work Children’s and Household Tales (Grimm’s Fairy Tales) intact. Director Alexander Burns has adapted the tale ingeniously so as to interweave stories within the story, including “The Willful Child”, “The Star Money”, “The Fisherman and His Wife”, “The Cat and Mouse in Partnership”, and “The Godfather”. Imaginatively interspersed throughout Hansel (Sean Bradley) and Gretel’s (Clare O’Malley) dramatic journey, these featured fables positively intensify the theatrical experience, bringing the essential themes of charity, gullibility, greediness, and goodness from Grimm’s stories to the fore in a fun, frolicsome, totally entertaining mien.
Burn’s adaptation, coupled with David Cope’s musical compositions and lyrics, gives children a HANSEL AND GRETEL that they can relate to in present times. The siblings have a father (Alan Brincks) who has lost his job due to a crumbling economy, they wander into an urban wilderness where they feel desolately lost, and Hansel is tricked by the Witch (Anita Holland) into distraction with high tech video games and lots of sweet goodies which make him fat.
There are also many funny moments. The show is vividly brought to life by a cast of six highly animated actors whose character’s sing and dance straight into their audience’s sphere of delight. Children audibly expressed their intrigue during the show with oohh’s, aahh’s, “wows” and laughter.
Sean Bradley and Clare O’Malley play well together as brother and sister, Hansel and Gretel, and tug at heartstrings during musical numbers such “Come and Dance With Me”, “The Children’s Prayer” and “We will Find Our Way Home”. Anita Holland plays a sassy cat, a fish, and as the Witch, serves up a smokin’ hot number with “In My Kitchen” and her duet with O’Malley’s Gretel “I Just Can’t Stop Myself (Whisk, Bake)” takes the cake! Alan Brincks portrays Father with Faith Fossett as the Stepmother, and also play additional roles within other stories equally well. Fossett’s timing is spot on as the Fisherman’s Wife and Brincks is priceless as the strutting Snowbird who guides the children. Bob Stineman, as an Ensemble of one, plays a talking duck, a fisherman, a mouse, and henchman with ease and actually evokes laughter during his role as Death.
Energizing music (composer David Cope, music director Faith Fossett) and dynamic dance numbers (choreographer Kaki Burns), lively alluring lighting (John Burkland), wonderfully crazy costumes (costume designers Jane Casanave, Chris Lione), groovy stage projections (John Williams) on a flexible set (Alexander Burns) consisting of flats that open in the middle serving as entrance/exits for people and props, or an oven, combine to create a captivating world rivaling any flashy kids cartoon or TV show.
You don’t have to be ten years old to thoroughly enjoy this production, you just have to retrace the breadcrumbs and remember how to pretend again. HANSEL AND GRETEL will show you the way…
[The Sedgwick Theater, 7137 Germantown Avenue] December 9, 2015-January 3, 2016;