Jimmy Shields (far right) in Village Theatre’s “Matilda” in 2019. He was choreographer of ““Hansel Gretl Heidi Günter,” which was canceled due to the pandemic. (Mark Kitaoka / Village Theatre)

Jimmy Shields (far right) in Village Theatre’s “Matilda” in 2019. He was choreographer of ““Hansel Gretl Heidi Günter,” which was canceled due to the pandemic. (Mark Kitaoka / Village Theatre)

Coronavirus robbed choreographer of first solo Village show

“Hansel Gretl Heidi Günter” was going to be Jimmy Shields’ Village Theatre debut. Then the pandemic hit.

Jimmy Shields was crushed when the coronavirus kicked “Hansel & Gretl & Heidi & Günter” off the stage.

Three musicals from Village Theatre’s 2019-2020 season had to be canceled because of the pandemic. This includes all performances of “Hansel & Gretl & Heidi & Günter” and “The Wedding Singer,” as well as the last two weeks of “She Loves Me.”

Shields, 33, of Tacoma, was the choreographer for “Hansel & Gretl & Heidi & Günter,” but then COVID-19 hit. The new tongue-in-cheek musical had been scheduled to run April 24 through May 17 at the Everett Performing Arts Center.

But then its premiere was postponed — and then all 75 or so shows canceled — as Washington stayed shut down to slow the spread of the virus.

“This would have been my first mainstage production where I had been the sole choreographer,” said Shields, who has been dancing since he was 8 years old. “It was my Village Theatre debut.”

Director Jerry Dixon named Shields the choreographer because he liked his work as featured choreographer for 2018’s “Hairspray” and as associate choreographer for 2019’s “Matilda.”

“I tapped him as a great choreographer and collaborator,” said Dixon, who is the theater company’s artistic director. “I knew he would add so much to the show — not just in talent and skills — but in fresh storytelling for this modern take on a fairy tale.”

“Hansel & Gretl & Heidi & Günter” was featured in Village Theatre’s Festival of New Musicals in 2018. The musical tells us what happens after Hansel and Gretl escape the witch. Gretl is a single mom living in modern-day Chicago, still suffering the post-traumatic stress of her fairy-tale childhood. When Uncle Hansel shows up, Gretl’s kids (Heidi and Gunter) learn about their complicated family legacy.

“I liked not having the pressure of ‘This has been done already,’” Shields said of choreographing the Village original. “What we had created, nobody had ever seen and, unfortunately, they won’t get to. There was so much creativity and originality in the work.”

He said he had to think outside the box with songs like “Catch That Finger,” “Dear Random Stranger” and “When Hunting Witches.” While he has studied all styles of dance — he even learned Bavarian for the job — “we threw styles out of the window and decided on how best to tell this story no matter what stylization it is,” he said.

Shields, who also has worked for 5th Avenue Theatre and Seattle Repertory Theatre, has performed in several Village Theatre productions.

He was in the ensembles for “Dreamgirls” in 2017, “Hairspray” in 2018 and “Matilda” in 2019, as well as for “Nikola Telsa Drops the Beat,” which was featured in the 2017 Festival of New Musicals. He also served as the dance captain in “Hairspray” and an understudy for Marty in “Dreamgirls.”

Village Theatre may be closed, but Shields is still dancing. He posts Carport Choreo videos on his Facebook page in which he shares 60-second routines. So far he has choreographed dances — for he and his husband to perform together — to Karyn White’s “Romantic,” Angie Stone’s “Brotha,” “Black Cat” by Janet Jackson, “Woman” by Syleena Johnson and Beyoncé’s “Freedom.”

Shields said these videos were made in honor of Black Lives Matter, Juneteenth and Pride Month. After having his thoughts on racial and gender equality fall on deaf ears, Shields said he’s letting his artistry to do the talking.

“I’m trying to figure out how to use my voice and push us forward,” he said. “Whether that means me sitting on boards or volunteering, I just really want to be a part of that conversation.

“I just want everybody to win — black or white, gay or straight.”

Sara Bruestle: 425-339-3046; sbruestle@heraldnet.com; @sarabruestle.

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