I’ve always thought that I was already a bit too old to enjoy a musical written for children. Boy was I glad to be proven wrong!
Repertory Philippines’ Hansel & Gretel was short and sweet, spanning only a little less than an hour and a half, including a 15-minute intermission in between (Perfect for the attention span of its target audience). With Mio Infante’s enchanting sets and Zenaida Celdran’s beautiful costumes, the audience is transported to a magical world of fairies, wizards, and witches. The production value was indeed quite exquisite.
This version of Hansel & Gretel was skillfully adapted from Englebert Humperdinck’s opera by director Joy Virata. Her director’s note writes, “Although many of his melodies have been kept, the musical arrangements have been changed and the script rewritten in parts so as to make it more attuned to today’s younger generation.”
In this adaptation, Hansel and Gretel’s mother sends them to the forest to pick strawberries as punishment for their naughtiness. Unbeknownst to the mother, there lurks an evil witch who lures children into her gingerbread house so she can fatten them up and eat them!
The star of this production was unsurprisingly the incomparable Bituin Escalante, who was a combination of both hilarious and diabolical in her depiction of the evil witch. She commanded that stage effortlessly and portrayed her own version of the charismatic villain to perfection.
Young actors Joshua Nubla and Ella Gonzalez looked quite professional and held their own as the leads in the press preview. (They will have 4-5 other alternates for the rest of the run). My favorite parts of the show was whenever Gonzalez would elicit reactions from the kids in the audience by asking them questions or by prodding them to sing along with her. Hearing the kids’ precious shrieks and laughs and watching them take part in the experience were more than enough to brighten anyone’s entire disposition. I ended up having an entirely new appreciation for parents who expose their children to the theater at such an early age.
Kudos to Repertory Philippines for continuing to captivate its audiences- kids and adults alike- through the magic of the theater.