Would you ever imagine your wildest dream would be…dinner?
Imagine you’re welcomed to the dinner table, but your waiter is a fish. You’re served a ten course meal prepared by a dozen or so larger than life chefs sprouting angel wings from their backs. These chefs may peer expectedly at you as you lift your spoon above your bowl ready to feast. In Hansel and Gretel, it seems their wildest dreams will come true as they journey through this food-filled story.
Not Your Usual Fairytale at the Lyric Opera
If you remember your Grimm’s fairy tales, Hansel and Gretel teaches children the dangers of gluttony, but that always seemed secondary to the grand fantasy of a candy forest and gingerbread house. In Lyric Opera’s production, they have taken both these dualities and incorporated them in unexpected ways.
A spooky forest? What if we were boxed in and the trees were people donning tree headpieces.
The gingerbread house? It’s delicious looking and a standard size model home. However it sits on a giant tongue surrounded by a grotesque mouth.
The witch? Not a hooked nose or pointy hat in sight. In fact, to our surprise, she’s wearing a perfectly sensible skirt and blouse.
We feel the resemblance to a fairy tale as we’re treated to artistic imagery that feels like a dream yet also cannot forget the ugliness of greed.
Some may have always had sympathy for poor Hansel and Gretel as they are tricked and threatened by the witch. In Lyric’s version, we find ourselves in a tug of war between rooting for them and also exasperated by their antics. As they play in their barren home, they complain of being hungry. We feel sorry for them as they try and scrounge up something to eat.
And yet when they do find the spare mug of cream set aside, we want to pull our hair out as they accidentally knock it over and devolve into a fit of giggles.
Our vocalists, Samantha Hankey as Hansel and Heidi Stober as Gretel, embody young children as they run and jump across the stage. Even the adults find themselves in other strange positions on stage. What astounds us is the physicality our actors have while their voices never waver.
Clocking in at about two hours, not including intermission, Hansel and Gretel feels like a perfect bite-sized opera. It balances both the grotesque and fantasy with an artful touch, never veering too far in one direction or the other. It would be a good pick for those looking for an easy to follow opera with eye-catching designs.
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Samantha Hankey as Hansel
Heidi Stober as Gretel
Jill Grove as The Witch
Alexandra LoBianco as the Mother
Alfred Walker the Father
Denis Vélez sings the roles of the Sandman and the Dew Fairy
Sir Andrew Davis- Conductor
Richard Jones- Original Director
Eric Einhorn- Revival Director
John Macfarlane- Set & Costume Designer
Linda Dobell- Original Choreographer
Jennifer Tipton- Lighting Designer
January 25 - February 5, 2023
Sundays - 2 pm
Wednesdays - 1/25 at 7 pm and 2/1 at 2 pm
Fridays - 7 pm
Lyric Opera of Chicago
20 N. Wacker Drive
About the Author: Alexis Bugajski
Alexis is a theater reviewer, travel bug, media specialist, and burger & beer enthusiast. During the day she works in the advertising business as a senior communications designer. When night falls, or when she can escape to New York, she’s hitting the theaters to see as many shows as she can. And whenever she’s not at her desk or in the audience, she’s out seeking the best burger and beer offerings in Chicago.
Editor's Note: Click here to read more Picture this Post articles by Alexis Bugajski