Tuesday, November 15, 2016


By Bryan Davidson

The creative team at the 24th Street Theatre near USC is an embedded member of their community.  Their community outreach may bring in ten thousand kids  in a year’s time to learn about what the magic of theatre can do for us.  This week, in light of the tragic events that may create frightening changes in our country, they have invited all audiences to attend the performances of Hansel and Gretel Blue Grass free of charge. 

The play, in development for three years, turns on the familiar Grimm’s fairy tale, but has been updated to the sad 1930s in Depression Era Kentucky.  We learn that Butcher’s Hollar is a small coal mining community where the mines have become “dead ground.”  Narrated in a clever video appearance, Bradley Whitford as radio personality The Duke brings the story to life as The Get Down Boys blue grass band underscores the story in music and projections.
Angela Giarratana and Caleb Foote
with Bradley Whitford on video
Photo by Cooper Bates

Whitford becomes the voice of the father of Hansel (excellent Caleb Foote) and Gretel (equally excellent Angela Girratana) who declares that all a man needs in this world is a “cord, a blade and an iron.”  Shades of Survivor, the kids are left alone in the woods to fend for themselves.  At first we think that their dad might return for them, but we know the story and right on cue the Mountain Woman (frightening Sarah Zinsser)
Angela Giarratana, Sarah Zinsser, Caleb Foote
Photo by Cooper Bates
hampered by poor eyesight and endowed with magical powers, gathers the children in and proceeds to fatten them up.

Mountain Woman exacts songs from Gretel and familiar tunes emerge: Amazing Grace, Will the Circle Be Unbroken and I’ll Fly Away, with occasional accompaniment by the Get Down Boys.   Keith Mitchell’s scenic design enhanced with video by Matthew G. Hill and Dan Weingarten’s lights become almost like an additional character in the production.

The three year development of this World Premiere production and how it came to the playwright, Bryan Davidson, and the producers emerged slowly. The sad business of children being sent away as in the fairy tale is happening even today as parents, unable to take care of their kids in countries south of our borders are putting them on trains unaccompanied with the hope they find help as they travel north.

Director Debbie Devine runs the actors through their paces: three excellent performances: in and out of the audience through drops depicting depleted coal mines that, with projections, become the forest and the enchanted home of Mountain Woman as well as a window into The Duke’s ten thousand watts of radio power narration.

24th Street has a long reputation for excellence and trying new things, especially to the benefit of the neighborhood and theatre aimed at children, but with an eye to have a story for adults at the same time.  This is a show for the entire family and deserves an audience. I am unsure how long free admission will be offered, but donations to the theatre are always welcome.

The 24th Street Theatre
1117 W 24th St, Los Angeles, CA 90007
Tickets and Information:
 (213) 745-6516

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