Creative Cauldron at ArtSpace presents Tales from the Brothers Grimm. This is a Learning Theater Production, where, after seven weeks of work shopping, a flock of young actors complete a sixteen-performance run alongside two professional actors. The large number of children participating in this project makes this a particularly ambitious task, one which Director Laura Connors Hull manages to bring together seamlessly (how she manages, I’ll never know).
Scenic and Costume Designer Margie Jervis leaves both of these elements fairly simple, owing to the space needed for such a large cast, and the fact that the actors perform multiple roles within seven different Grimm tales. The space has a few trees painted in to create a forest, while the actors all wear black shirts and leotards as a base outfit, with layered accessories depending on which character they are playing (aprons, royal robes, caps with animal ears, etc). Part of me was a little disappointed when I realized that, no, a grand gingerbread house was not going to materialize for Hansel and Gretel’s story, but it took mere moments for me to realize that I didn’t need one. The narrators describe the scene beautifully, leaving your imagination to dream up the rest…and with the majority of the audience being young children, this can only be a good thing. With limited physical space, much of the creation of the atmosphere lies with Lighting and Sound Technician John Sami, who does not disappoint . Sami uses dappled green and blue lighting and the effects of twittering birds to take you into the forest.
A big part of this show is the musical aspect, where the children sing a song before and between each tale is performed. Musical Director and Composer Matt Conner handles this part of the show, with orchestrations by Gabriel Mangiante. The song is a slow one…and dare I say, a little eerie. The children creep about the stage singing “Once upon a time…once upon a time…once upon a time, long ago…” and the effect is slightly chilling. Their message is clear: this is the Brothers Grimm, not Disney.
The tales performed are as follows: Hansel and Gretel, The Wolf and the Seven Kids, The Fisherman and His Wife, Snowdrop, The Brementown Musicians, The Elves and the Shoemaker, and Dummling and the Golden Goose. Most of these tales are lesser-known, making the production ever more interesting. Professional actors Stephen Gregory Smith and Dani Stoller lead the children in each tale as prominent characters, and both give hilarious, talented performances. While their performances are excellent (Stoller’s evil stepmother in “Snowdrop” is uproarious) it is clear that they are there to support and teach the children. The young cast varies in ages, and one must remember that they are still learning and growing within the craft of acting. Still, there is a lot of talent brewing in this group, and the chemistry amongst the ensemble is one of fun and trust. Gregory Smith and Stoller work well with the children, at times improvising to turn a would-be blunder into a funny aside.
The tales themselves are entertaining, and are told in their original versions. Common themes such as jealousy and greed are represented, as well as the repercussions that unfold when these emotions peak too high. This is best shown in The Fisherman and His Wife, where the Fisherman (Stephen Gregory Smith) catches an enchanted Flounder (Grace Tarpgaard) who grants him wishes in return for saving his life. However, the fisherman’s Wife (Samaria Dellorso) remains unsatisfied, and makes him return to the fish numerous times, with bigger and grander demands. How much will the Flounder stand before he loses his patience?
Another one of my favorite tales is The Wolf and the Seven Kids, depicting a family of lambs threatened by the trickery of a hungry Wolf (Emma Rollins). The children warble their voices to be convincing lambs, and it is downright adorable.
I highly recommend you take a family evening and go see Tales from the Brothers Grimm. It is always enjoyable and inspirational for children to see their fellow peers onstage, and the tales themselves are thoroughly entertaining. Adults and kids will equally enjoy the show!
Running Time: Approximately 90 minutes, without an intermission.
Tales from the Brothers Grimm plays through November 24, 2013 at Creative Cauldron at ArtSpace– 410 South Maple Avenue in the Pearson Square Building, in Falls Church, VA. For tickets, call (571) 239-5288, or purchase them online.