Waterworks Players proudly presents the pantomime Hansel and Gretel to celebrate this year’s holiday season. Beloved by children and adults alike, pantomimes are as much a part of Christmas throughout the British Isles as singing carols, trimming the tree, and exchanging presents.
As a popular form of theater, “Pantomimes are melodramatic presentations of familiar nursery rhymes or children’s tales that combine song, dance, and slapstick comedy,” states Mary Jo Stockton, who grew up in Scotland and plays the owl in this production. “At home they are called pantomimes, but it’s not the same as a mime,” says Stockton. “You get the story with a twist. A night out at the pantomime is a family affair.”
Five years ago, Waterworks presented its first pantomime, Puss in Boots. “The production was so successful that we followed that with Aladdin, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Snow White. Last year, we packed the house for each production and now people ask us months in advance which tale we will tell in December” according to Waterworks Players’ director Dudley Sauve. From the beginning, kids knew right away how to get involved in the play as if they had grown up with it. Likewise, adults had a wonderful time laughing at the double-meaning of the punch lines.
“Part of the magic of pantomime,” says Sauve, “is the audience participation.” Everyone is encouraged to “Boo” the villain and sing along with cast members. This can lead to friendly audience competition as half of the audience tries to sing their chorus louder than the other. In some productions the story villain will squirt the audience with water guns, while other cast members might throw candy to children.
In Waterworks’ production of Hansel and Gretel, Betty (Jordan Whiley) introduces us to her troubled life as a poor widow, doing her best to take care of her three hungry children. Hansel (Ross Baldwin) tries to help the family with his wacky inventions, although they do go awry. One time he tried to repair the witch’s gingerbread house which Gretel (Audrey Gee) partially ate, but blew it up instead. As a result, the witch (Leigh Lunsford) has employed dubious construction workers Short (Walter McCoy) and Sweet (Shawn Stum) to rebuild her abode. Freda (Ashlee Todt), the eldest of the siblings, is frequently charged with finding food when the cupboard is bare. Once she ventured deep into the forest in search of berries, where she got lost and encountered wild creatures like goblins (Tim Davie and Michael Casterlow), an owl (Mary Jo Stockton), and a woodsman named Len Hur (Matt Buchanan). Never fear, a nearly-blind constable (Nate Sterling) leads the search for lost Freda.
Make reservations now for the whole family to attend Hansel and Gretel. Performances are Friday (December 9th) at 7 pm, Saturday (December 10th) at 2 pm and 5 pm, and Sunday (December 11th) at 2 pm. Reservations are highly recommended as the Sunday performance is now sold out. Tickets are $5 for everyone, children, adults, goblins, and owls. You can obtain tickets by calling the box office at 434-392-3452 or visiting the Waterworks web site: https://waterworksplayers.org.