Hans Brinker | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Hans Brinker 

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HANS BRINKER, New Tuners Theatre. Nancy Kerrigan would probably find it corny. There's certainly nothing here to suit Tonya Harding's taste. But there's more than enough sweet bubbliness in New Tuners Theatre's production of Hans Brinker to please the Dorothy Hamill in all of us.

This simple, slightly sanitized version of Mary Mapes Dodge's 1867 classic children's story recounts the eponymous hero's industrious efforts to win a pair of silver skates so he can help his ailing father. Jane Boyd's sunny script is tightly constructed, avoiding the genre's tendency to get too moralistic, and Warner Crocker's direction is a model of economy: he deftly employs minimal props and a barren stage to create both the somber poverty of the Brinker household and the gleeful innocence of a skating pond.

Hans Brinker overflows with touching moments and seasonal homilies about faith and good works, but it might be a trifle simplistic for older children and precocious grumps. Philip Seward's score is tuneful and hummable, but John Sparks's unimaginative lyrics occasionally make the show seem like a thawed Ice Capades, as beaming youngsters glide along singing banalities on the order of "Silver skates! What a gift! What a prize!" while performing Scott Sandoe's loopy choreography, which borrows more from Fat Albert than Jerome Robbins. Still, the vocally gifted and enthusiastic cast keep things moving along, providing an energetic alternative to yet another Christmas Carol.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Matthew Kaplan.

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