Don’t go into the woods at night!

Scenic painting by Renee Jankowski, Liz Palmer, Robyn Winslow, Sophia Smith and Heather Peterson.

Scenic painting by Renee Jankowski, Liz Palmer, Robyn Winslow, Sophia Smith and Heather Peterson.

Don’t go into the woods at night! But Hansel and Gretel didn’t get the warning, and as the sun sets the woods become pretty scary with enormous, looming trees, a thousand twisting branches, and no clear path out. Larry Hancock, set designer for Hansel and Gretel, got the inspiration for this set from a real forest in Ireland, filled with sycamore, ash, and hazel, growing so thick that no undergrowth could survive in the gloom. We painted it warm with fall colors and cool with twilight blues and grays. The muslin on which the color has been painted is translucent, allowing the lighting designer, Pamila Gray, to control the glow of the scenery from behind as well as on the front. Renee Jankowski, the scenic charge artist, created magic, and the carpenters also helped achieve these twisted, opaque branches. The children’s cottage will fly in/out, and all the furniture in the cottage was made from real branches by Lori and Chris Kesel, from the bunk bed to the stools around the table. The candy cane cage where Hansel is held captive and the enormous oven, with a personality all its own, add to the colorful yet sinister atmosphere. All this is leavened with wonderfully colorful, whimsical costumes by Elizabeth Poindexter. In such a setting, the singers can only be inspired to bring this classic opera to life in a very special way that should delight both the grownups and the many children we are expecting to see in the California Theatre. Who knew Hansel and Gretel would be so much fun to produce? Everyone is having a wonderful time creating just the perfect touch, from the angel crowns (very wood sprite inspired) to the gingerbread house and gingerbread children.

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