Parents looking to introduce their little tykes to the joys of theater have a perfect opportunity with Theatre West's latest interactive Storybook Theatre musical, HANSEL AND GRETEL. It's geared for children ages 3 – 9 and looks like it's been lifted right out of the pages of a colorful storybook, hence the name. Lloyd J. Schwarz's version of the story brings the familiar Brothers Grimm fairytale to life in a fun, non-scary way and Hope & Laurence Juber's upbeat musical numbers help make the two 20-minute acts just the right length for short attention spans. There's even a cookie and juice break in between during intermission.
Best of all, the kids get to participate in the story right along with the actors. When Hansel (Joey Jennings) and Gretel (Caitlin Gallogly) run away from home they leave a trail of bread crumbs that takes them out among the kids. A wacky yellow bird named Birdy (Barbara Mallory) invites them onstage to become part of her flock, learn a dance, and later they even get to help turn the Witch's (Kathy Garrick) cottage into a gingerbread house. The show's pace is lively and fun, and judging from the happy faces of the kids I saw, contains just the right combination of elements to keep them engaged from beginning to end.
The cast is delightful and improvises easily using the impromptu interjections from the kids in the audience. Gallogly and Jennings are adorable as the perky sister and dorky brother who live with their Father (Anthony Gruppuso) in the woods and Gruppuso makes a warm and caring dad. Garrick's witch is an endearing mix of silliness and innocence who really just wants to have a log house and not be a meanie at all. She and Mallory have some very funny exchanges, including a riff on Abbott & Costello's "Who's on First?" routine that is a lot of fun. Adults that are paying attention will even find a few jokes thrown in to tickle their funny bone as well.
Theatre West's Storybook Theatre knows exactly who its audience is and presents HANSEL AND GRETEL in a way that is sure to make a child's first experience with theater a magical treat. Don't be surprised if they ask to come back again and again!
HANSEL AND GRETEL
Now through March 2, 2013, Saturdays at 1pm
Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, Los Angeles, 90068.
Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for children.
For reservations call (818) 761-2203 or go to www.theatrewest.org.
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Pictured above (L-R): Barbara Mallory, Joey Jennings, Anthony Gruppuso, Caitlin Gallogly, Kathy Garrick. Photo Credit: Bonnie G. Kalisher.