‘Hansel and Gretel’ gets musical treatment
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.
SURVIVAL: Natasha Dryden and Steven van Wyk in
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