‘The Story of Hansel & Gretel’ will be performed today, Saturday

Jasey Donovan and Lillie Heise will portray Hansel and Gretel in the FCOA's Youth Theater program's production of "The Story of Hansel and Gretel." (by Richard Sayer)

Franklin Civic Operetta’s Youth Theatre program’s production of “The Story of Hansel & Gretel” will be a sweet treat for the whole family. The show will be held at 7:30 p.m. today and at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Barrow-Civic Theatre in Franklin.

The youth theater program will finish out its season with the advanced production of the well-know fairy tale. This season marks 15 years of providing theater education to local youths ages 7-18.

The youth theater program puts on three productions each year. The productions provide young thespians with an experience in theater while teaching proper skills for auditioning, rehearsals, performances, technical effects, set building, developing props and costuming. This is all done while putting on a production.

The program starts its year in January and February with an all-youth production where all who audition are accepted into the show. In the summer, the program continues with Youth Theatre Summer Camp which is a week-long intensive program for 120 children. The program concludes in the fall with an advanced production for only 35 actors and 10 tech students who go through a rigorous audition similar to that of a main stage FCOA production.

“The Story of Hansel & Gretel” starts off with neighbor children (Noel Bunyak of Cranberry, Bailey McMahon of Oil City, Cambree Backer of Franklin and Gavin Empson of Rocky Grove) heading to Public Holiday, when they meet a gypsy (Madison Kish of Grove City), who tries to lure them into spending their money. However, staying back to finish their chores while their father (Brandon Williams of Sandy Lake) is out selling his goods, Hansel (Jasey Donovan of Rocky Grove) and Gretel (Lillie Heise of Oil City) become distracted making their own fun.

The naughty children are sent into the woods by their mother (Jessica Wilson of Oil City), where they meet up with a number of peculiar characters. Fiery troll guards (Celeste Hartle of Oil City and Jackie Higby of Slippery Rock) keep watch over a little wooden bridge. The dew princess (Alexandra Webster of Oil City), an articulate owl (Ashley Barletta of Oil City), the sand man (Ben Hoover of Cranberry), and several forest animals (Sarah Jo Fox of Oil City, Jackson Donovan of Rocky Grove and Gracia Riddle of Franklin) keep watch over the two children as they wander into the forest. Frick and Frack, two hobgoblins (Brooke Whitling and Devin Zerbe, both of Cranberry) are in the service of an evil Gingerbread Witch (Alexandra Dobson of Oil City). She locks poor Hansel in a cage and feeds him overwhelming amounts of food!

Everyone will cheer for Gretel as she outwits the crone and sets free all the children who have been turned into cookies (Nemah Saylor of Knox; Maddy Bunyak, Carley Gulnac and Ella Perry of Cranberry; Lizzy Hoovler of Oil City, Emma Kish and Erin Swartfager of Grove City and Mallory Wetjen of Rocky Grove). The cast is rounded out by an ensemble of townspeople (Emily Fox of Rocky Grove; Ayman McElhinney-Braiber of Franklin; Sophia Klonowoski of Grove City; Seth Hartwell of Mercer and Jenna Pierce of Knox). Every dramatic moment is brought to life, from the night spent in the woods to the discovery of the candy-coated little cottage.

The youth tech crew consists of Britton Backer of Franklin, River Perry of Cranberry and Elizabeth Amero, Ben Dobson, Andrew Fox, Sam Greene and Tori McClelland, all of Oil City.

The youth theater directors include choreographer Kelly Zerbe, costume director/youth tech supervisor Jessica Rodriguez and youth tech director Angie Carothers.

Tickets cost $12 for adults, $11 for seniors/military and $9 for students and children. Tickets are available by visiting the Barrow-Civic Theatre in Franklin, calling (814) 437-3440, or going online at www.barrowtheatre.com.