This little nightmarish fairytale arrives just in time for Halloween
“The Sandman” musical showing at Majestic Repertory Theatre is more than just a nightmarish coming of age story, it’s a gothic fairytale about children breaking all the rules to save their family.
“You think your parents know everything in the world and then you realize they were just faking it,” says Troy Heard, artistic director of Majestic Repertory Theatre. “That’s one of the things I discovered in the show that attracted me to it.”
Writers of the Tony award-winning Broadway musical “Bandstand,” Robert Taylor and Richard Oberacker, latest “darkly comic” tale draws inspiration from E.T.A.’s “The Nutcracker.” Their spooky story unfolds in an intimate 99-seated theatre running now until late November.
“The Sandman” illustrates the story of a family with a gifted German clockmaker, Albert Strauss (Steffan Scrogan) and his wife Maria Strauss (Lauren Ashlea Fraser) hiring a new nanny, Fraulein Kaeseschweiss (Annette Houlihan Verdolino) to care for their two children, Nathaniel (Alora Rivera) and Theresa (Khloe Judd). A series of strange and unnatural events unravels soon after she’s entered their “sanctuary.” What once appeared to be a happy home spirals into a deep chaos as chilling forces reveal themselves, but only the children see through the sinister game that is being played and bear the courage to save their family.
From the enchanting set to the whimsical wardrobe to the outstanding performance earning a standing ovation, this “Tim Burton movie on stage” will charm audiences from start to finish.
A Dream Cast in a Nightmare World
With a small cast featuring only seven actors, including three children, it is impressive how they effortlessly kept in sync throughout the performance. I was surprised to learn that this was the first time Alora Rivera graced the stage because of how well Rivera portrayed the precocious Nathaniel.
The nanny’s sarcastic quips sprinkled throughout the show along with her comedic timing are delivered in a fresh and fun fashion.
The three children starring in the show who take on the roles of Nathaniel, Theresa and Clara (Ashlee Grubbs) perform their characters’ emotions with depth and heart. Keep an eye out for this trio of talents because a bright future awaits them in theatre, no doubt.
When audiences meet Dr. Coppelius (Darren Weller), they quickly witness him owning the stage with his animated gestures and Tim Curry-esque singing voice. No one can go wrong when they channel Curry.
As for the parents, Albert Strauss and Maria Strauss, the actors bring to life two characters who deeply love their children and work hard to get everything right, yet they still fail. But that is what makes their performances so brilliant because it reveals a deeper truth. All parents fail at some point in time during raising children. This is what makes their performances go beyond just being characters, they are mirroring a reality and a horror only a parent can understand.
Not only is the acting endearing and entertaining, but all of the actors hit a high note with their powerful vocals. As a former Thespian, I know it’s not uncommon for some musicals to have actors deliver a “talky” singing style that might reveal the performer’s limited vocal range, but all of the cast belted their solos to a Danny Elfman sounding score beautifully.
Whimsical Wardrobe and Imaginative Makeup
From the nanny’s cloudlike hair to the dark Tim Burton inspired circles framing the children’s eyes, the “Alice in Wonderland” like wardrobe and imaginative makeup contribute ingeniously, breathing life into this haunting fairytale.
Each character’s costume pairs perfectly with the tone of the show and the actors that play them. Natalia Castilla, Wig & Makeup designer complements the wardrobe choices of RuBen Permel, Costume Designer. Together they truly capture the essence of Disney gone goth.
What makes this even more special is that it coordinates seamlessly with the set which also embodies that same essence. To catch all the fine details in the costumes and on the set, one would have to see the show more than once.
Secret Passageways and Spooky Special Effects
This set is not built to be stiff and stationary, it is built with secret passageways, spooky special effects and unsettling twists. Without spoiling it, let’s just say they play up the supernatural aspects in the story in a mesmerizing way.
The lighting illuminates the stage with colors reminiscent of Burton’s “Beetlejuice” at times with neon greens and vivid violets, but also drenches the set with a wondrous teal and a biting red.
“The Sandman” musical is not just a scary story meant to entertain children, it runs deeper than that with heavy underlying themes of loss, grief and family.
“There’s a lot of artifice to it, a lot of showiness to it, but there’s also this really deep level,” says Heard. “It’s for spooky kids and weary adults. Yes, there are scary moments, but life is scary.”
Snag your Majestic Repertory Theatre tickets information to plan your next night out.
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