THEATRE REVIEW: An en’deer’ing magical tale

Daniel Doheny, as Little Brother, is pulled along by Rebecca Auerbach, as Little Sister, in Caravan Farm Theatre’s latest winter sleigh-ride production. - Tim Matheson photo
Daniel Doheny, as Little Brother, is pulled along by Rebecca Auerbach, as Little Sister, in Caravan Farm Theatre’s latest winter sleigh-ride production.
— image credit: Tim Matheson photo

The word magical is often used to describe a human emotion or sentiment that overrides that feeling of just being human.

For me, at this time of year, it doesn’t come in a shopping bag or from a glass of over-spiced eggnog. It comes from the glowing lights, the cold, crisp air, and, yes, a little magic along the way.

For those who need a little of that in their lives, I suggest you hitch a ride out to the backwoods of Spallumcheen and hop aboard a sleigh at Caravan Farm Theatre to see the farm’s latest winter sleigh-ride production, Little Brother, Little Sister.

Those who have been to Caravan before already know they’re in for a treat at this unique outdoor experience.

It’s not hard to feel tingly from head to toe when the farm’s Clydesdales and, in my case three small but very powerful Norwegian fjords, jolt you out of your Bailey’s and hot chocolate haze to pull you through field and forest to experience the sights.

And it’s always guaranteed that an audience member, in Elf-like fashion, will ignite the spirits of all with a carol sing-along.

As for the show, this year’s spectacle will definitely put the spark in any Grinch’s too small heart.

It’s magical, musical, and very funny and is one of the most fun times you’ll have in below freezing temperatures.

Adapted from a lesser-known Grimm fairytale by Adam Underwood, Little Brother, Little Sister puts on an extra dose of that Caravan magic. A lot of this is due to the show’s aesthetic. The crew has obviously worked tirelessly to make this a breathtaking experience.

The lighting alone, thanks to Enderby’s own Stephan Bircher, is incredible with its mystical hues, dimmed chandeliers, and even a blazing sun.

Designed by Drew Facey, the sets —framed by deer horn-like branches, birch stands and pine fronds — are gorgeous, even King Oberon would approve. And the costumes, designed by Deitra Kalyn, are medieval chic, if there’s such a thing,

Introducing us into this spell is the baritoned narrator, Babbling Brook (welcome back, Bruce Horak), whose silly rhymes match that of his wit, and whose nimble guitar playing accompanies the show seemingly throughout.

The story follows, you guessed it, two siblings, Little Brother (Daniel Doheny) and Little Sister (Rebecca Auerbach), who are kept prisoner by their evil guardian, Ms. Grindle.

Brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm have concocted a lot of evil characters in their day, but none as mean as this one. Played by the wickedly delightful Elinor Holt, whose cackle rivals that of Margaret Hamilton’s Wicked Witch of the West, it’s best to hide your hands in their woolly mittens when she comes around.

And her one-eyed daughter, Selma (Donna Soares), is also (a word that rhymes with witch.)

When Little Brother and Little Sister decide to run away from Ms. Grindle’s evil grasp, she puts a curse that whomever drinks from the babbling brook be turned into a fawn.

Now we’ve seen a few woodland creatures at Caravan’s winter shows before: grizzled coyotes, a colourful nightingale, and a donkey or two, but there’s never been one as cute a Little Fawn, make that Brother. (The lucky Doheny gets to not only stay warm, but looks more adorable than Bambi in his costume.)

When Little Brother does what fawns do, and decides to go frolic in the woods, brave Little Sister is left to her own devices and that’s when she has a close encounter with a huntsman who turns out to be the ruler of the land, King Roland (Chris Cochrane, who also doubles as a hilarious canine in the first scene.)

Of course, evil isn’t far away, but, as the song goes, love, love, love reigns in the end.

It’s a sweet, silly, and lovely story played out by a cast that has obvious chemistry, especially when they join voices, and instruments, to perform the catchy songs penned by Caravan’s artistic director Courtenay Dobbie.

The last scene, which takes place in a feat to carpentry, Caravan’s open-air timber frame barn, will leave you in party mood, and with that magical feeling all season long.

Little Brother, Little Sister continues at Caravan Farm Theatre most nights until Jan 4. Shows take place  at 4, 6  and 8 p.m. Tickets are selling like hotcakes, so contact the Ticket Seller at 250-549-7469, www.ticketseller.ca to book a seat.

Kristin Froneman is the arts-entertainment editor at the Vernon Morning Star.

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