Dateline Movies Goes To Repertory Philippines' Hansel and Gretel

Hansel & Gretel

Play Dates: August 13, 2016 - December 15, 2016

Genre/s: Adventure, Comedy, Fantasy, Family and Children

Presented by Repertory Philippines

Writers: Erwin Fajardo, Joy Virata and Sach Castillo

Director: Joy Virata

  • Allen Orolfo/Joshue Nubla/Mari Yapjoco/Nathan Flores/Tory Cortez  as Hansel
  • Ashlee Factor/Ella Gonzales/Michelle Cornejo/Rayne Cortez as Gretel
  • Bituin Escalante/Carla Guevarra-Laforeza/Christine Flores as Rosina, The Witch
  • Chino Verguillas/Vien Alen King as The Sandman

Hooray for another play review! Last weekend, me and the rest of the Martinez family battled metropolitan traffic, heavy rain and the confusing parking system to get to the premiere of Hansel and Gretel, the latest feature by Repertory Philippines, which is co-sponsored by Republic Biscuit Corporation, makers of the delicious Hansel Biscuits. Nothing screams "clever promotion" more than this one. Also, for those who are asking, no, this has nothing to do with Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters starring Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton. Anyway, let us get to our review of Hansel and Gretel, and while you are reading this post, book your tickets right now and see this play as soon as possible. No need to worry, you have about a few more months to find time.

What is the play about?

Based on the beloved Brothers Grimm written children's tale of the same name, and adapted from famed composer Engelbert Humperdinck's opera of also the same name, we follow the two children in an all-too familiar adventure of old age whimsy and some added charm to boot. Siblings Hansel, played by Orolfo (Jack and the Beanstalk), Nubla (Be Careful With My Heart), Yapjoco (Noli Me Tangere The Musical), Nathan Flores (Alice in Wonderland), or Cortez T., and Gretel, played by Factor (The Secret Garden), Gonzales (Peter Pan), Cornejo (Revolting Children) or Rayne Cortez (appearing in Jewel of the Antilles with Tory Cortez) are tasked by their parents to take a small trek through the woods to pick-up some berries. Unbeknownst to them, the neighboring forest is a very dangerous place to venture through, as the infamous witch known as Rosina, played by Escalante (Stepping Out), Guevarra-Laforeza (Saturday Night Fever) or Christine Flores (A Christmas Carol) lives there.

As the kids go deeper, and deeper into the forest, and after falling asleep due to a long day of walking, and the spell of the fabled Sandman, played by Verguillas (A Midsummer Night's Dream) or King (Marco Polo: An Untold Love Story) Hansel and Gretel discover a house constructed of pure sugary treats, which for some reason is not being eaten by animals, specifically ants. (Seriously, if I found that house anywhere near my neighborhood, I would eat the whole structure in a heartbeat.) With a single glare, Hansel and Gretel give into their innermost cravings and decide to indulge in the sweet delight that is the gingerbread cookie-crisped dessert of a household. Unfortunately, for the two youngsters, they are caught in what is actually the lair of the sinister witch herself (Gasp!). With the witch aiming to make a meal out of them, the two must evade capture and return to their home in one piece!

What we think of the play?

Okay, okay. It is a family-oriented adaptation of a famous children's fairy tale. As such, I am not expecting a modern complexity of a play that would be mentioned as the Modern Prometheus of the generation, or the play of the century, or anything of the like. In addition, the source material itself is not particularly new theater material. It is fairly simple, although commendable in its presentation of a very straightforward story. However, immediately dismissing a story for its overly simplistic structure would be biased of me. With an open mind, I was able to discover a very entertaining family-friendly fare.

The color, the costumes, the dialogue, they all have awaken the inner child in me that has long been forgotten due to high school life. That inner child sparked like a firework, to the point that me and my sister laughed a little too hard at some bits of the play as we constantly relate the play to our lives. But seriously, the play is good. Yes, like I said before, this is not your typical William Shakespeare-esque project, but there is something about the play that will make you watch.

The production value of the play is really, really neat. I mean, look at their costumes, is it not the most accurate portrayal of fairy tale characters? It is sad when you see that about half of the movies adapting these typical children's tale are endlessly re-imagining everything. Why the sudden requirement for a dark and brooding take on simple tales is what I will never understand.

The acting is a very good highlight here, especially Bituin Escalante's performance as Rosina, The Witch. Here, from the play we watched last weekend, Escalante delivered a sharp and energetic wicked witch act while still maintaining a malevolent presence to reckon with. The acting is backed by well polished choreography, filled with nimble and rhythmic steps that properly reflect the joyful vibe the play is aiming to instill. She also made it as my highlight of the play because of how she answered an audience member, a young girl, who was asking how to avoid the wicked witch, to which Escalante answers, "If you obey your parents, I won't come for you.". That was awesome. I cannot remember the exact words but what I just typed are pretty close.

While the story is indeed predictable, it still had its interesting moments, such as that part when Hansel and Gretel attempt to eat the house, but are frequently foiled again and again by the snooping witch. However, story and stage time-wise, questions as to the actual role of  wizard, who is actually the Sandman in the story and the Dawn Fairy, played by Cara Barredo (Rent), or Sweet Buchanan (The Baker's Wife), remained in my mind. I was expecting to see the famous "leaving a trail of breadcrumbs" part but I didn't see it. Is that not an important part of the story? It was explained by the Director though during the question and answer portion that it was not included in the Engelbert Humperdinck opera which they chose to adapt. Despite these, you and your family will still be in for a wonderful experience.

All-in-all, Hansel and Gretel is a very funny and worthy family-friendly entertainment. 

And that is where we conclude our review.  Stay tuned for more Dateline Movies!


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