Oct. 22 2008 12:00 AM

'Annabelle Broom' blends fright with music, laughs

With Halloween lurking around the next dark corner, the Holt & Dimondale Community Players have brewed up a spooky delight to scare and entertain the children.

“Annabelle Broom, The Unhappy Witch,” by Eleanor and Ray Harder, is a musical mix of witchcraft and fun. Director Nan Slocum does not push the performances to great heights, but the cast members play well off each other, and their fun is contagious.

Gretchen Greiner stars as Annabelle, a relatively young witch who is having difficulty conforming to the standard practices of her craft. While her mentors conjure thunder with dire incantations, she worries about her dismal facial complexion and prefers the color pink to black. She encounters two young girls who have wandered too far into the woods. They try to distract the young witch by promising to show her the secrets of clean skin. Greiner makes up for her overall uninspired acting with a tremendous voice and a few moments of great comic timing. As the happy-go-lucky children whose fears of witches in the forest come partially true, Sarah Morgan and Ellen Weise carry their songs and simple characters with charm.

Annabelle isn’t the only witch in these woods. Jami Markle, Jennifer Miller, Vicki Wardlaw and Julie Murray round out the cast as a coven of less conflicted, more traditional troublemakers. Markle plays Mabel, the tall and imposing head witch, who rules by fear. The other members of her sisterhood share Mabel’s evil values but not her brains, proving an easy foil for the children.

Wardlaw steals most of her scenes as the dimmest bulb with the best physical antics.

Although “Annabelle” is a musical, the songs do little to enhance the show and ultimately hinder the pace. However, based on the reactions from Saturday’s multi-generational audience, no one else seemed to mind. The 90-minute show blends cheesy jokes with mild frights, concluding with a moral that that is not too heavyhanded. It plays mainly to fifthgraders, but works for all ages and is the perfect substitute from repeat viewings of Disney sequels. As a bonus of sorts, the show will inspire children to quote and reenact their favorite lines and scenes again and again, so parents can enjoy repeat performances without having to buy tickets again.

‘Annabelle Broom, the Unhappy Witch.' Holt
Dimondale Community Players. Through Oct. 25. 7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday.
Maurice Pernert Auditorium, Holt Jr. High School, 1784 Aurelius Road,
Holt. $10/$5. (517) 694-3411 or www.hdcptheater.org