By Joseph Pratt
JAX Theatre is rehearsing for “Hansel and Gretel: The Musical,” which is their seventh show and closing title of their fourth season.
“Hansel and Gretel: The Musical” is the third title that director Jordan Nickles has written the script and lyrics for. Other titles have included “Alice’s Wonderland” and “Sleepy Hollow: The Musical.” Nickles prefers to write his own productions, because it saves the theatre the hassle of paying a licensing fee and also gives them complete control over what is included in the story and what isn’t.
“’Hansel and Gretel’ is something that just hasn’t really been explored before and it is such a well known thing,” Nickles explained. “I thought it would be fun, since it is something that is familiar, but something we could stretch and make it our own as well.”
The show is split into two acts. The opening act introduces Hansel and Gretel, many of the show’s characters and the plot. The closing act will open with the introduction of a new family of grotesque witches with ill motives against the title characters of the story.
The Grimwald family of witches is composed of eight members who are under the leadership of Beatrice. Each witch is entirely different and has his or her own unique quirk.
“People do have to come with an open mind,” Nickles said. “I think most people either love it or they hate it, because they do tend to lean towards a darker side. Grimm’s fairy tales usually are dark, but we do strive to keep all of our titles family friendly.”
“Hanzel and Gretel: The Musical” will feature interactive blocking that places actors in the audience, grabbing visuals and unique puppetry. The atmospheric experience JAX aims to provide with each show is aimed to pull the audience into the story entirely.
The costuming is detailed and involves glowing contacts and heavy makeup by professional makeup artist R.J. Haddy, who was a fan favorite of SyFy’s “FaceOff. “The music is written by Nickles and includes many classical references.
Nickles will be playing a member of the Grimwald family. His character, Klaus, is wheelchair bound and described as being lazy. Klaus uses a ventriloquist puppet to speak throughout most of the show.
Eliza Eaches, freshman at Shawnee State University, is undecided on her major, but is sure of her decision to minor in music. Eaches has been involved in music since fourth grade. Eaches will be playing a fairie named Sarabella. Sarabella is a constant character throughout the entire show who acts fort of like a guide to the children.
“I also play the role of the children’s deceased mother at the beginning of the show. Sarabella is sort of the embodiment of the children’s mother who guides them through the forest and then to safety later in the show,” Eaches explained. “I’m really excited. This is really the first opportunity that I’ve had to stand out more at JAX. I think my character is really special and plays an important role in how things play out.
Eaches said that she loves the spin Nickles puts on classic fairy tales, but especially loves how he has shaped Hansel and Gretel into something entirely different.
Eva Martin says she was always involved in musicals while she was in high school, but took a break for many years. She recently broke out into performing arts once again and has been involved in Portsmouth Little Theatre and JAX Theatre. She will be taking the limelight in “Hansel and Gretel: The Musical” in a larger role than what she has in recent years, as she plays the antagonistic evil witch, Beatrice.
“Once you’ve been involved in theatre, you never want to fully leave it, but life does get in the way,” Martin explained, as she spoke about her rise into theatre once again. “Once the opportunity arose to perform for JAX Theatre a few years back, I decided to try out.”
Martin played a cruel mother in last year’s musical, but hasn’t touched truly evil before this role.
“I get to get into character and play evil and I love it so much,” Martin said. “I yelled a bit last year, but I really get to hurt people in this show. I love the freewill Jordan is letting me have in developing this character and I am truly enjoying it. It is kind of fun to play evil.”
Martin’s role will feature solos and many musical numbers, including a short rap.
“I love the music. The set of music and words fit so perfectly for Hansel and Gretel. There is some classical involved as well, which people will pick up on. I don’t know how to explain it, but a lot of the music is unique and something you’ve never heard before. The work put into some of these lyrics is amazing,” Martin said.
The curtain on “Hansel and Gretel: The Musical” will open at 7 p.m. on Aug. 15, 16, 22 and 23 and at 2 p.m. on August 16 and 23. General admission is only $12. Tickets can be bought online at www.eventbrite.com on the JAX Theatre’s page or at the door. Tickets for JAX productions sale quickly and interested parties are advised to buy ahead. JAX Theatre rents the theatre out at TG-Entertainment for their productions. The address is 8805 Ohio River Rd, Wheelersburg, OH 45694.
Joseph Pratt can be reached at 740-353-3101, EXT 1932, or by Twitter @JosephPratt03.