Hold the lettuce!


Book & Lyrics by Kristin Walter
Music by Michael Walter
Directed by Bruce Merrill
Musical direction by Timothy O'Brien
Manhattan Children's Theatre
380 Broadway 4th fl. (www.theatermania.com; 212/226-4085
Non-union production (closes May 22)
Review by Deborah S. Greenhut

This updated tale of high-maintenance hair in a tower was long on both love -- the family kind -- and on Grimm, as well -- a witch who held a grudge against any creature who might try to seduce Rapunzel from the tower. Kristin Walter's affecting adaptation depicts the story of twins, Rapunzel and her brother, Daniel, separated from their parents and each other shortly after their births. Filial devotion replaces boy-meets-girl as the plot alternates between the search by Daniel for Rapunzel, and her lonely, naive tribulations in the witch's tower. Michael Walter's tuneful music relays the message of endurance and love conveyed by Walter's lyrics.

A poignant scene between the twins' Mother (Elisha Allison) and Father (Gershon Levy) rehearses the familiar, fateful pregnancy cravings for the witch's rampion, which set up the violent kidnapping of Rapunzel, played by the deftly clueless Sonia Hoffman. In the mêlée, Father carelessly leaves his son, Daniel (Adam Cooley), in a serving girl's care as he seeks his daughter, and so renders his wife childless once more. Daniel, the more fortunate twin, becomes the pride of the King and Queen, and the heir to the throne. Raised by a comical Nurse (also played by Levy), Daniel leaves the castle to find someone. A song binds him unknowingly to his sister. Special kudos were due to Cooley for carrying his musical weight despite laryngitis.

From the separation, the play moves quickly to the twins' 20th birthdays, depicting Daniel on the road to Rapunzel in her tower. A versatile setting (Leigh Henderson) allowed for great variety in scene changes, including the house, the town, and the tower. Dramatic lighting (Brian Patrick Byrne), regal costume design (Brad Scoggins), and effective props (Mary Malmquist) accented the tale without distracting from it. A particularly ingenious device, which linked the seating area to the set by garlands of flowers, became the source of mild exhilaration during a fight scene. For some of the youngest, Merrill's excellent battle choreography may have been a little too graphic. Likewise the witch's terrorizing anger. By contrast, the older children were delighted by it. Following an animated discussion of the author's changes to the original, the spectators concluded they liked it.

Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 2
Acting: 2
Set: 2
Costumes: 2
Lighting/Sound: 2

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Copyright 2005 Deborah S. Greenhut