It just doesn’t quite hit the mark
Lukas Papenfusscline and Kierna Conner are Ami and Tami in Matti Kovler’ musical upgrade of the original Hans Christian Anderson tale. The duo bubble and overflow with energy and excitement, illustrating the mischievous and playful children perfectly. They are bored with their overly-planned lives that are dictated by their strict, pushy parents (Casey Kennan and David Hughes) and dream of adventuring off into the magical forest nearby. The cast give stellar performances in their roles as the happy family, with particularly strong vocals from Kennan, and I cannot fault the enthusiasm and dynamism of all the characters. However, this wonderfully talented cast is let down by a strange storyline and even stranger dialogue. The concept of ‘upgrading’ this old fairy tale to a more modern story is not a bad idea in itself, but it was almost too clever and too modernised, I’m not sure how many younger children would understand all of the dialogue and references used.
The musical loosely follows the original fairytale but there are several additional characters to the old story. There is an additional villain in the ugly ogre, Humm, (also Hughes) who conspires with our wicked witch character – Yaga the Entrepreneur (Kennan) – to cook the children. Other new additions include some singing headlice and an Imf (hilariously portrayed by Matthew Shifrin) who help Ami and Tami navigate their way through the forest. If you think it sounds a bit confusing, it is. The story moves a bit too quickly, and without any real explanation as to why these singing headlice and this magical Imf have appeared, the story starts to unravel and the wonderful musical performances and beautiful set can’t make up for this.
Often the best children’s shows have the simplest storylines; the reason that Anderson’s tales have been repeated throughout time is because the stories work. The addition of the Imf, a troupe of singing headlice, and an ogre to the original Hansel & Gretel cast is overcomplicated. All these creative and additional characters are funny and lively and they do entertain with their silly expressions and clear, strong voices. However, their place in the performance doesn’t always make sense and rather than adding more to the story, they merely distract and take away from the premise of the entire tale.
It is always ambitious to take on and remake such a classic and well-known fairy tale, and the intention behind elevating this story to the modern day world is good but it just doesn’t quite hit the mark. Despite some great original music, and lively performances, I fear that those expecting something more closely resembling a fairy tale will be left feeling disappointed.