Dallas — Fairy tales don't always have princes, princesses and castles. A brother and sister work together to create a happy ending in Hansel and Gretel now playing in the studio theater at Dallas Children's Theater, presented by the Kathy Burks Theatre of Puppetry Arts.
The story of Hansel and Gretel isn't all gingerbread and lollipops—after all, there is a wicked witch about who preys on children. But have no fear, the witch isn't all that scary. She wears red and purple instead of black and doesn't even have a pointy hat. If she wasn't Elphaba green, you would just think she was an eccentric old lady in the woods instead of a wicked witch.
The brother and sister encounter her after straying from their stone cottage while looking for wild strawberries. Hansel is sure they won't get lost because he's left a trail of bread crumbs, but a hungry white bird has other ideas. When they stumble on a gingerbread house, the witch who lives there finds the two nibbling on her cottage. Before you know it, the witch has Hansel in the goose coop and Gretel frozen in place under a spell. She leaves them to get the ingredients she needs for a tasty sauce, and the siblings hatch a plan for escape. In a grand show of girl power, Gretel is able to take control of the situation, Mama and Papa find them, and they all live...well, you know.
The rod puppets used in this Kathy Burks production made their stage debut more than 20 years ago, but thanks to master puppeteer and senior puppet designer Sally Fiorello, Hansel and Gretel both received new, hand-sculpted heads and a fresh, updated look.
The story is adapted from the original Brothers Grimm fairy tale with book, original songs and lyrics by B. Wolf. Douglass Burks and Fiorello share the directing duties. In addition to the lovely woodland sounds throughout the show, audiences also will hear variations from Engelbert Humperdinck's 19th century opera, Hansel and Gretel. There is one particularly charming moment when the children are forced to deal with their fears and sleep in the forest to a selection from the opera, "Prayer," as angels appear to watch over them.
On March 12, at the 4:30 p.m. show, DCT will offer their first sensory-friendly version of a puppet show. A grant from the Crystal Charity Ball has enabled DCT to double the number of sensory-friendly shows this season, adding the puppet show to the mix. Sensory-friendly shows are adapted for children with autism or other developmental challenges. Hansel and Gretel is recommended for children 4 and older, who can easily enjoy this gentle, not-so-grim tale of courage and self-reliance without nightmares.