Come back, Hansel and Gretel

Hansel and Gretel

Students from Youngstown State University rehearse for “Hansel and Gretel.” The witch captures Hansel and Gretel outside of her newly refurbished house of gingerbread and sweets. Photo by Marissa McIntyre/The Jambar.

Deep in the woods is hardly a place for two children these days. With bears, hidden traps and the occasional witch, there is just too much that could go wrong.

However, deep in Bliss Hall’s Ford Theater, David Vosburgh is bringing this situation to the stage.

Youngstown State University’s Performing Arts Series and the Dana School of Music present “Hansel and Gretel,” an opera by Engelbert Humperdinck.

Most of the principal roles have been double cast. Along with extras, along with crew and orchestra members, more than 65 people are involved in the performance.

The show premieres on Thursday, and the first full dress rehearsal took place on Monday. However, Vosburgh said he isn’t nervous.

“It’s like putting together a puzzle. If everyone does their homework and comes prepared to rehearse, it’ll be great,” Vosburgh said.

Vosburgh was first involved with “Hansel and Gretel” as a dancer when he was 20 years old.

This production marks the ninth time he’s been involved with the opera — and the third time he’s directed it.

“The first time I directed, I had five days,” Vosburgh said. “The entire production was staged, and everyone knew their parts. The other director had just been skipping out on rehearsals. They asked me if I could direct, and I asked them, ‘When do we open?’ and they said, ‘This weekend.’”

Along with YSU students performing, children from Girard and Austintown will play angels, while members of the Ballet Theater Shenango Valley will perform as gingerbread children.

“This is a full-fledged grand opera,” Vosburgh said.

It’s been no easy venture for the students either.

Rebecca Enlow, a sophomore vocal music education major, plays the Sandman.

“He’s sort of this old, limping man who comes and helps the children go to sleep in the woods. The contrasting character is the dew fairy, who is a young, bright character,” Enlow said. “The challenge has been playing the part of a big old man when I am, in fact, a small young girl.”

Enlow had never been in an opera before, but she welcomed the challenge.

“I really wanted the experience. Musically, it’s definitely harder,” Enlow said.

“Hansel and Gretel” in opera form is slightly different from the well-known fairy tale.

The two children are sent to the woods by their mother to search for food, and along the way are captured by a witch.

Vosburgh said the set design will have “cheap tricks” he’s learned to create the illusion of magic.

There will even be a silhouette of a witch flying across the stage.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Vosburgh said.

Enlow said even though the opera is more graphic than the fairy tale, it is still family-friendly.

“At certain parts, I feel like it’s more serious. I still think it’s OK for kids, but also has a deeper meaning for adults to appreciate,” Enlow said.

“Hansel and Gretel” will run from Thursday through Sunday. Thursday through Saturday performances are at 7:30 p.m., while the Sunday matinee performance is at 3 p.m. Tickets are $5 for YSU students with ID; $15 for adults; $10 for senior citizens, YSU faculty and staff, and high school and college students from other universities.

For more information, call the University Theater Box Office at 330-941-3105.