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Hansel & Gretel: An Indie-Folk Musical

This reimagining of the classic fairy tale has some promising ideas, but is too rarely compelling.

By New York City
Dustin Cross, Alicia Fitzgerald and Carly Howard
in Hansel & Gretel: An Indie-Folk Musical
(Courtesy of the company)
Dustin Cross, Alicia Fitzgerald and Carly Howard
in Hansel & Gretel: An Indie-Folk Musical
(Courtesy of the company)
Chad and Carly Howard's Hansel & Gretel: An Indie-Folk Musical, now at 17 Frost, is both a reimagining of and sequel to the classic children's fairy tale. While the show has many promising elements, it is ultimately a less-than-compelling experience.

The work jumps in time between Hansel (Dustin Cross) and Gretel's (Carly Howard) fateful encounter with the witch and the scars it left on their lives years later, and these jumps too often feel jarring and disruptive of the world the Howards are trying to create. Moreover, too many of the aftermath scenes move at a terribly stagnant clip and don't add a lot of insight into the characters.

The most interesting exchange between the two adult siblings is when Hansel suggests that Gretel's memory of the witch (Alicia Fitzgerald), and ours as well, is a delusion. The idea isn't developed much outside of that conversation, which is a shame because the questioning of the fantastical world would be a nice added layer if the fairy tale was really only in Gretel's head perhaps?

There are also brief conversations about God and existence, but they fail to dig deeper than the most basic "does he exist?" variety despite a promising Kierkegaard quote on wanting to choose a fantastical life with "trolls to battle, and enchanted princesses to set free" over the banality of reality.

The impressive atmospheric video projections fill some of this void, supplying three full walls of the stage with ominous forest imagery and colorful animations. The melodies are not particularly memorable and the lyrics are aimless and repetitive, although tje underscore is a richly fitting accompaniment to both the beauty and macabre nature of the classic tale.

The cast rarely helps matters, with the exception of Carly Howard as the young Gretel. She evokes a precocious yet innocent wonder that drives the story forward in a way that her songs never do. Conversely, there are the Beasts of the Forest -- five female dancers who are supposed to bring out the dark yet playful mysteries of the forest, but instead seem like the misplaced chorus from a production of Cats.


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