Not your childhood Hans Christian Anderson. Frank Galati’s adaptation, in collaboration with Chicago folk musician Michael Smith and master puppeteer Blair Thomas, returns to Victory Gardens after a successful run last year. Not so much a play as a kind of children’s folk opera, the show walks a fine line between a playful musical retelling and an extravagant spectacle, complete with elaborate puppets and a full band circling the stage. The music that comprises the production is occasionally superb, and several of the musicians are extremely talented, but the songs alone can’t hold the story together, and the narrative in between songs gets neglected with plot taking a back seat to all other dramatic elements. The acting is mostly engaging, often leaning heavily toward camp, with Andrew Keltz and Blair Robertson in energetic if occasionally saccharine lead performances, but on the whole, the dramatic element of the show lags behind its aesthetics. That said, Thomas’ puppetry, Jeff Bauer’s diorama-like set, which artfully interprets original cut-out pictures of Anderson himself, and the costumes/masks are exquisite. (Monica Westin)
At the Victory Gardens Biograph Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave, (773)871-3000. This production is now closed.