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Hansel and Gretel

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First published as a fairytale in 1812 by the Brothers Grimm, Hansel and Gretel is a story taken from German folklore. And in spite of the two cherubic youngsters, for whom the story is named, and regardless of cottages built of gingerbread and cakes, the tale is – like so many other children’s narratives of the day – not only a parable first recorded by the Brothers Grimm; it is also a quite grim parable.

Not to worry, however, in Storybook Theatre’s musical staging of Hansel and Gretel, by Lloyd J. Schwartz (book) and Hope and Laurence Juber (music and lyrics), the fable – aimed at children, ages 3 to 9 years old – is rendered innocuous. Instead of a wicked witch wishing to fatten Hansel and Gretel for her own dining pleasures (as was the case in the original fairytale), in this hour-long depiction the witch (veteran performer Kathy Garrick) is a harmless hoot aand merely wants to fatten the kids so that they become obese and lazy, allowing her, the witch, to take over the show. She even wants to change the tale’s title from Hansel and Gretel to The Wonderful World of Witches.

Nevertheless, this two-hundred year-old yarn still resonates today. After all, Hansel and Gretel run-away from their home because their woodcutter father (a vibrant Luckas Bailey standing in for Anthony Gruppuso) is now among the long-term unemployed. Plagued with anxiety, the children flee their single father’s abode in search of nourishment and to relive him of the burden of their care.

Amidst wholesome warnings to the audience about the dangers of running away from home – underscoring that Hansel and Gretel is only a show, not a design for living or a plan of escape. With five delightfully original song and dance routines, Hansel and Gretel is sixty minutes well spent.

Hansel is played with ebullient commitment by Joey Jennings, whose long-legged dance routines and comedic countenance infuse him with a corny charisma, allowing his personal charm and ample talent to carry this performance with no visible strain, only effective and fun-loving characterization.

Gretel is fully embodied by the talented Caitlin Gallogly. Her bright-eyed portrayal of Gretel is contemporary in its sensibilities, but timeless in terms of its sheer entertainment power. Gallogy’s part in the number, "We Are Leaving Home" is the very definition of cuteness. Gallogy exudes warmth and possesses a tender beauty that is a pleasure to witness.

Birdy is a character cleverly added to the proceedings. She provides exposition as well as “bird-brained” expressionisms and is played with devotion by the yellow-suited Barbara Mallory. Mallory’s involvement includes the song and dance routine "Birds Fly Better in Flocks," and it is a pleasure to see her gentle performance grace this small stage (Mallory is also the show’s producer).

Effectively directed and choreographed by Elliot Kevin Schwartz, Hansel and Gretel is a treat for children and their adult companions. Fortunately the show continues through March 2, and you don’t have to follow a trail of breadcrumbs to find it. GPS will get you there.

Storybook Theatre’s Hansel and Gretel continues at Theatre West, located at 3333 Cahuenga Boulevard West, Los Angeles, through March 2. Performances are Saturdays at 1 p.m. The show is also available for school or organizational fieldtrips. Plus, a touring show for schools and other groups may be booked by calling (818) 761-2203. For reservations and further information, visit www.theatrewest.org.


 

Spotlight

Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”

ABOUT ELLEN RICHARD

Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.