Review: “Hansel and Gretel” at KCPA
The Brothers Grimm wrote collections of short stories that became fairy tales for children in the English-speaking world, however their original intentions were nothing of the sort.
Their intentions were to capture the essence of the German people and bring Germans together. The brothers are also known for the work they have done on understanding the evolution of the German language and their work on starting the German Dictionary.
“Hansel and Gretel” was one of their tales. It portrays two siblings who are sent off into the forest to collect food for their family, but end up lost and having an adventure through the night. When the morning comes, they are woken up, but meet a witch who tries to eat them.
A translated version of this production was brought to the Krannert Center for Performing Arts and was directed by Tom Mitchell.
The play featured a live orchestra, which was amazing. Often it was easy to forget that there was live music, as the orchestra was hidden away in the pit of the Tryon Festival Theatre. Only occasionally could one see the top of the conductor’s head and occasionally a hand or two. The live music made it extremely easy to become immersed in the production and a lot of the swells in the music helped to build the tension in such a way that one didn’t notice it was happening.
The only criticism on the sound was that it was hard to hear some of the actors very well. There was a teleprompter above the stage to help the audience follow along while they were singing their lines. It would have been nice to be able to hear the actors better and have them sit on top of the orchestra rather than with the orchestra.
Although the singing wasn’t present and obvious in the mix of music, you could hear the talent and hard work. It may seem strange to think about things in those terms, but it was apparent as the singing had perfect timing and the notes were all spot-on.
The acting was being done so well that often times you didn’t need too much context to understand what was going on. The audience was particularly excited by the witch in the third act. Scenes of tensions were alleviated at times with some extreme comical motions of the witch as she sung her plans to eat the children.
The lighting and sets were some of my favorite parts about the play. Everyone and everything was well lit when they needed to be. The gingerbread house was well done and the scenes in the forest made you feel what the children would have felt as the forest turned from day to night.
The production also featured the Central Illinois Children’s Chorus, which did a phenomenal job. The program makes it possible for students in grade school to perform in major plays. Incorporating local talent is always a great aspect of any production.
Overall the production had great direction, great actors, great musicians and great everything. The show flowed in a very smooth way and featured locals as well as professionals.
It’s interesting to think about how the story we view today as a fairytale didn’t start out as one; it’s a testament to how things change over time, much like how the work that the Brothers Grimm originally affected the German language.
While KCPA is not having another showing of the production, there will be several other productions at Krannert. For more information, visit krannertcenter.com