‘Hansel and Gre­tel’ gets mu­si­cal treat­ment


Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - GOODTHEATRE - ROBYN CO­HEN

SCHOOL’S out, yay. This sum­mer, there is heaps of qual­ity the­atre for the small fry in our city, so take a break from the beach and check it out.

Lead­ing the pack is Hansel and Gre­tel, which opened on Thurs­day in the Bax­ter’s Flip­side. Based on the clas­sic tale by the Brothers Grimm, this mu­si­cal ver­sion is di­rected by Fred Abra­hamse, who also de­signed the set – a yum­my­look­ing ginger­bread house, dec­o­rated with sweets and cake. Mu­sic and lyrics are by Mar­cel Meyer, who also de­signed the cos­tumes. It runs un­til Jan­uary 11.

Last fes­tive sea­son, Abra­hamse and Meyer staged an out­stand­ing The Lit­tle Mer­maid at the Bax­ter. It was a huge suc­cess and the Bax­ter in­vited them back.

Hansel and Gre­tel was first staged at Canal Walk in 2011 – to rave re­views.

Steven van Wyk is repris­ing his role as Hansel but the oth­ers in the cast were not in the Canal Walk pro­duc­tion. Gre­tel is be­ing played by Natasha Dry­den – who cap­ti­vated au­di­ences a few months ago in Long Street Nights, at the Bax­ter. She is a stun­ning per­former. Candice van Lit­sen­borgh and Earl Gre­gory, who daz­zled in the Lit­tle Mer­maid, play the Wicked Witch and the Fa­ther.

Van Lit­sen­borgh and Van Wyk are cur­rently ap­pear­ing in Sun­set Boule­vard at the The­atre on the Bay so it is a bit of a jug­gling act for them – dash­ing from venue to venue. Last year, Van Lit­sen­borgh was the Sea Witch (in a shim­mer­ing pink tutu) in The Lit­tle Mer­maid and here she is – as the Wicked Witch. What’s the story with all th­ese witches? “They’re the best parts! I to­tally skipped that phase when other girls were play­ing the in­genue and went straight to char­ac­ter roles when I was 13. I guess you’re not the ob­vi­ous choice to play sweet and in­no­cent when you’re a girl with a boom­ing bass voice – or maybe Fred and Mar­cel just think I cackle re­ally well.”

Talk­ing of witches, as with most Brothers Grimm tales, there are dark un­der­tones un­der­pin­ning the story, but Abra­hamse and Meyer do not want to freak out the kids, so it is about find­ing a bal­ance.

Abra­hamse ex­plains: “In all cul­tures – Africa, East­ern and Western – myth and leg­end ex­ist. They speak of noble deeds done by he­roes and hero­ines.

“Only through one’s hard work and good deeds does good over- come evil… it is a uni­ver­sal theme that speaks to all chil­dren of ev­ery cul­ture and re­li­gion.

“We live in a highly im­moral world… It is most im­por­tant that evil is van­quished – just as St Ge­orge must slay the dragon, so the wolf, the troll and the wicked witch too must all per­ish.

“Chil­dren need to see and un­der­stand con­sciously or sub­con­sciously what good morals, prin­ci­ples, scru­ples and ethics are…

“In this stag­ing of Hansel and Gre­tel, the step­mother who pushes the fa­ther to aban­don the chil­dren is de­picted as heart­less and with­out hope, rather than as be­ing de­lib­er­ately cruel or abu­sive to­wards the chil­dren.”

Be­yond all the themes and morals, there’s singing by the hugely ta­lented cast, laugh­ter, fun, colour­ful cos­tumes and the ginger­bread house which “looks good enough to eat”, quips Abra­hamse.

Hansel and Gre­tel. PIC­TURE: OS­CAR O’RYAN

SUR­VIVAL: Natasha Dry­den and Steven van Wyk in

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