Hansel and Gretel is a well-known and loved fairy tale of German origin, published by Brothers Grimm in 1812. That is certainly a long time from today but the story of the young brother and sister who outwitted a wicked witch still manages to capture the imagination of young children all over the world. The good thing about it is that adults will not find it hard to relate to the story since presumably the story was once a part of their childhood as well. What better way then for a family to enjoy the magic of the story than by watching Repertory Philippines‘ Hansel and Gretel.
Hansel and Gretel as adapted by Repertory Theater for Young Audiences (RTYA) chose the opera version of Engelbert Humperdinck, among the numerous versions available. As such, it somehow differed from the original 1812 version where a step mother and a trail of breadcrumbs played significant parts in the story-telling. Never the less, this presentation is not any less interesting. When two young children get lost in the forest after being sent by their mother to look for berries, they found themselves in front of a house made of candies and cookies. They started eating, unknowing that a wicked witch uses the house to lure children who she changes to gingerbread cookies to eat. The children were able to outsmart the witch and end up rescuing other children like themselves who were held captive by the witch. The story ends with the children being reunited with their families.
Repertory Theater for Young Audiences
Joy Virata, the founder and moving force behind Repertory Theater for Young Audiences (RTYA) directs Hansel and Gretel. Mrs. V as she is fondly referred to, shared how they choose their materials for children’s theater.
“First, of all, the plays have to be musicals. Of course they have to be. Music and songs appeal to children of all ages. Music is the proverbial spoon full of sugar that makes the medicine go down. Children may not listen to lectures or sermons but they will sit up and listen to songs.
The material must also be short – an hour and 15 minutes at the most – designed for a child’s shorter attention span.
Then, of course, the plays must be written specifically for young audiences. Dialogue has to be simple and can be understood by children who might not speak a lot of English. Messages or lessons must be universal. That is, they cannot be too culture specific – too American or British – so our children can relate to them more.
Finally, the material must have a familiar title — something that both children and teachers know immediately. This is why most, if not all, RTYA productions have been and are based on fairy tales, stories that have been made into movies or stories that are curriculum based, i.e., taught in schools.
Our children’s musicals are some of our most popular plays, and we enjoy staging performances for them. The stage is a wonderful place for children to immerse themselves in with fantastic stories and wonderful characters.”
Hansel and Gretel Stage Play
No wonder then that this play was a hit with the young audience as we witnessed during the premiere showing last August 13, 2016. All the elements as shared by Mrs V were there to capture a child’s attention. In addition, the production set was completely “story book”, fantastical, and unreal – in short perfect. The costumes were wonderfully colorful and imaginative, particularly the witch’s costume which veered away from the usual scary interpretation. The music was stimulating while the actors’ performances were professional including the children who had to sacrifice more of their time since they are also students.
Children in Theater
Several sets of children to play Hansel and Gretel were found through exhaustive audition processes. There are six sets of boys and girls who will play the titular siblings Hansel and Gretel. There has to be, given the rigorous schedule of performances ahead of them. A Repertory Theater for Young Audiences (RTYA) run usually spans five months with over 120 shows sometimes at rate of two to three shows per day. But these kids are not just ready and willing to do what needs be done for the love of theater. They are already doing what needs be done. Being a part of HANSEL AND GRETEL has opened a door to endless possibilities for these children and it is only the beginning.
And so I found myself traveling down memory lane watching Hansel and Gretel with my family. Once again, I emphasized to my children the importance of them looking out for each other. They may never get to see the children-eating witch herself but they surely will encounter people comparable to her. Having a brother or a sister who will extend a helping hand can make the big difference between perishing and surviving.
Hansel and Gretel will be shown at Onstage Theater, 2nd Floor, Greenbelt 1, Makati City from August 13 to December 15, 2016.
Bituin Escalante, Carla Guevara Laforteza, Ring Antonio, and Christine Flores will alternately play the witch, while Cara Barredo, Sweet Buchanan, and Christine Flores will alternately play the Dawn Fairy. The Hansel role will be divided between Joshua Nubla, Allen Orolfo, Mari Yapjoco, Tori Cortez and Nathan Flores, while Gretel will be portrayed by Ella Gonzalez, Ashlee Factor, Michelle Cornejo, and Rayne Cortez.
Other roles are the mother, essayed by Natalie Everett, Ayam Eckstein, and Buchanan; the father will be portrayed by Arnel Carrion, Hans Eckstein, Raymund Concepcion, and Raul Montesa; and the Sandman will be portrayed by Chino Veguillas, Vien Alen King, and Edu Briones.