Grunella, the story stealer review

“Grunella the Story Stealer” could not have been performed in a better space, this much can be deducted the second I’m seated.

It’s small and warm, perfect for such an affair. There are a couple lines of chairs taking up the hallway, most filled by the time I arrive, with two benches up front for the children. Those are pretty packed as well, and the sounds of childish conversation make the space all the more brighter.

At the end of the hall is the simple set, dark curtains draped tastefully between the two rooms the hallway branches off to. The mansion’s interior is just as breathtaking as the exterior, not to mention just as creepy.

The lighting and soft rumble of the audience gives it a nice warm feeling, however. It’s just the right amount of creepy, I suppose you could say.

What adds to the atmosphere is the informal feel of it; no fancy outfits, no ticket numbers, not even a Playbill.

Instead, everyone is very much laid back; casual jeans and coats, a sheet of paper waiting at whatever seat you chose (or, depending on your arrival, whatever seat is left) listing the cast and crew with Don Grant Zellmer, who was behind the music for the show, acting as the unofficial usher and the preshow entertainment for the kids.

Right on time, the man behind all this, IVCC’s own Dr. David Kuester, comes to the front of this makeshift stage. He greets the audience warmly, and goes on inform us how crowd participation is a must.

He tells us how the characters will need our help throughout the play, and even the adults were expected to join in (the children were all for it, of course).

Amazingly enough, Kuester reveals that he wrote “Grunella” mere months ago in August, and through workshops and such, he was able to get it on stage.

Then without further ado, Kuester calls forth the keeper of all fairy tales, Enchantra (Tricia Kelly), to take over the show. Her flowy, flowery dress trails behind her, and her Irish accent adds even more character.

Whimsical and medieval-esque music accompanies the play, all from Zellmer and his electric keyboard situated at the back of the hall behind the audience.

It flourishes as Enchantra begins her tale, rising and falling with her emotions and her expressions are full of wit. There is so much wit and exaggeration that some could consider this production a parody of children books/movies, or even Disney characters.

The other characters light up the space with Enchantra’s faithful servant Winston (Jake Jakielski) who acts as a stress reliever with his flustered speech and happy-go-lucky attitude.

Then we have the lovely Snow White (Emily Hanck) who embodies the idea of the somewhat gullible, but very lovable, princess.
Next is perhaps my favorite character, that being the Magic Mirror (Anna Klobnak) who is much different than the portrayal seen in the Snow White movie with her carefree attitude and sassy wit.

All of the actors meld together perfectly, lines flowing into the other and improv lines popping up smoothly as they interact with the audience, and sometimes each other.

Once Snow White begins acting strangely, which ends up leading to her memory loss, the antagonist of the play (although she would call herself the protagonist, if you asked her) makes her grand entrance.

Grunella the Witch (Christy Roosma), in all her splendidly horrifying glory, prances in with her shrill voice, crazy raven black hair, vibrant expression, cackling laugh, and most importantly, a giant mole on her face. It has been awhile since I’ve seen a villainess portrayed so well.

Throughout the play, laughter abounds. There is amusement around every turn full of rhymey spells, satirical humor, and happy endings.

Yes, everyone gets a happy ending, even the story stealing Grunella. All in all, this tale is positively one for the kids, but I found it to be age appropriate for all.

This could definitely become a short, animated film one day. Dr. Kuester should give himself a pat on the back; Grunella has certainly stolen the show.