Are you ready for an adventure? Not your typical fairytale story as Hansel & Gretel wander about through their magically enchanted wood! Synetic Family Theater presents Hansel & Gretel like you’ve never seen it before! Co-Directors Tori Bertocci and Elena Velasco also co-choreograph this fantastical and wondrous holiday spectacular which transplants the classic story of two children lost in the woods into the modern world of Christmas. With a babysitter who is too busy texting away on her smart phone, poor Hansel and Gretel are left to mind themselves and entertain themselves in the busy shopping mall at the holiday season. What starts as innocent mischief evolves into a spectacularly strange and brilliantly, bizarrely beautiful piece of interpretive dance theatre.
There is a deceptively simple set, fabricated by Scenic Designer Philip da Costa, which transforms an ordinary department store complete with clothing carousels into the magical and mystical woods in which the titular characters find themselves thrust. Magical happenings know no bounds with Lighting Designer Kelly Rudolph working her mystical ways when it comes to illuminating bits of the set. Playing with one of the primary properties of the show (Hansel has a magical ice-cube from his food-court super-drink cup, which ultimately ends up being used a bit like his security blanket as everything is alright once he’s in possession of his cup), Rudolph creates the illusion that Hansel’s magic ice cube really can illuminate various pathways and steps in their Narnia-esque tundra-wonderland. This furthers the stimulation of the imagination for the young and young at heart in the audience.
Costuming is simple, with Costume Designer Dominique Gaddy leaning toward the modern urbanity of the show’s aesthetic. This lends itself to the overall modernization of the show, which is reflected in the show’s framework as well. Co-Directors and Choreographers Tori Bertocci and Elena Velasco have adapted the Grimm fairytale into their own unique version which relates well to the modern audience. With spunky personalities and temperaments, the characters are readily recognizable as the youths of today, though it is not ever truly clear that the babysitter is in fact the babysitter and not either the sibling’s mother or their older sister. It’s only mentioned in the story synopsis that she is in fact the babysitter. Regardless, all three of the characters are well-established in their modernity; everything from physical posture and gestures to their vividly expressive moody facial animations give them presence in the present modern day.
When it comes to dancing, as the story is told entirely through the interpretive movements of the three performers— Justin Bell as Hansel, Sharisse Taylor as Gretel and Raven Wilkes as The Witch, The Babysitter, and the various animals which are puppeteered throughout— Bertocci and Velasco’s choreography lends itself to this modern approach. Layered against Koki Lortkipanidze’s compositions, each scene is transformative, moving the characters not only physically through to new locations but morphing an evolving their attitudes and experiences as well. There is playfulness and imaginative fancies happening all around, making this the perfect holiday outing for children of all ages.
There are moments of true wonder— like when The Witch (as played by Raven Wilkes on springer-stilts with a giant headdress mask) first appears to the children, and when they encounter The Stag (also played by Wilkes) running wild in the woods— that captivate the imagination and inspire a true sense of magic in the audience. The sprightly energy which all of the performers possess, especially Justin Bell and Sharisse Taylor, who fully embody the youthful exuberance of bubbly, energetic children, is a guiding beacon of amusement and entertainment all throughout the performance, even when things look bleak! Ultimately a rewarding, albeit brief, theatrical engagement, Hansel & Gretel as newly adapted for Synetic Family Theater, is the perfect holiday outing this December!
Running Time: Approximately 50 minutes with no intermission
Hansel & Gretel runs through December 23, 2017 with Synetic Family Theater at Synetic Theater— in the Crystal City Shops at 1800 S. Bell Street in Arlington, VA. For tickets call the box office at (866) 811-4111 or purchase them online.