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Review: ‘Hanna and the Moonlit Dress’ Provides an Alternative Holiday Experience

By Miles Harter, Contributing Writer, December 13, 2016

In these days of political turmoil, mistrust, and angst, who could resist taking their kids to a show billed as an “interactive musical” about “the magic of a good deed”? I, for one, could not resist seeing (albeit childless) Hanna and the Moonlit Dress this past Saturday morning. The performance was delightful and inspiring.

This play comes from a charming Hebrew story, based on the Hasidic lore of Eastern Europe. Hanna’s mother has given Hanna a lovely white dress to wear on Shabat. Hanna goes on a brief journey to display her new outfit to her animal friends and a coalman. She helps out the coalman, but in so doing, she gets the dress dirty. As she heads home to her mother to explain the condition of the dress, the moon’s magical light helps save the day (and night). And so Hanna and the audience learn that miracles can occur if we do good deeds.

The play is recommended for children from two to nine years old, and with a running time of 50 minutes, I’d encourage parents to bring their children early so they may participate in the pre-show activities. The “interactive” aspect of this experience is achieved by the younger audience members sitting on the stage floor prior to the performance and cutting out stars and flowers, that will be given to the actors during the show. The audience is also encouraged to participate in a question and answer session about what happens on Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath—the most winning answer was “soccer.” In a city that is celebrating the wonders and joys of Christmas, Hanna and her Moonlit Dress is a good exploration of a religious tradition of the non-Christmas variety. As the father of grown daughters who once performed as animals and shepherds in Christmas pageants, I’d urge parents who are not Jewish to bring their children to this musical, so as to teach them about a different culture, and to help them understand that we’re not all the same, but our strength lies in our diversity. For parents, the program also includes an informative explanation of the origins of the show.

The three performers in this show, Kate Mulberry, Matt Webster, and Case Watson, are very enthusiastic and engaging—singing beautifully, enunciating their words and successfully telling the story with appropriately broad gestures and lots of smiles.  The excellent pianist/musical director, Peter Hodgson, along with the cast are all dressed in white, performing in front of the simple but delightful set which includes a white tree and house.

The show concludes its run this weekend with performances on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. For more information click here.

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Hanna and her Moonlit Dress is presented at the theatre at the 14th Street Y (344 14th Street) through Sunday, December 18, 2016. Book adaptation, translation, and lyrics by Gina Bonati and Ronit Muszkatblit, based on the story by Itzhak (Schweiger) Dmi’el. Directed by Ronit Muszkatblit; set and costume design by Yoav Gal; lighting by Josh Benghiat. Cast: Kate Mulberry, Matt Webster, and Case Watson.


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