Kate Jaeger played Gretl and Kevin Vortmann was Hansel in Village Theatre’s “Hansel Gretl Heidi Günter,” which was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Tracy Martin / Village Theatre)

Kate Jaeger played Gretl and Kevin Vortmann was Hansel in Village Theatre’s “Hansel Gretl Heidi Günter,” which was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Tracy Martin / Village Theatre)

COVID-19 curtain drops on a Village Theatre original musical

The lead actor in the canceled show says his disappointment pales next to that of the 10 young actors who were cast in the production.


That’s how Village Theatre actor Kevin Vortmann describes what it’s like to have the coronavirus take 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.”

Vortmann, 39, of Edmonds, was to star as Hansel in “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.

“I understand why we’re not performing right now, but it’s kind of like mourning a loved one’s death,” Vortmann said. “It’s a part of you you can’t access right now; it’s beyond your control. I know it’s temporary, live performance will come back, but right now it feels like something is missing in my life.”

Yet Vortmann, who was a Broadway actor for many years, said his disappointment pales in comparison to the 10 youth actors in the show. For many of the kids, the musical was supposed to be their Village Theatre debut.

“I’ve dealt with disappointment of shows being closed or shut down, so I’ve built up scar tissue,” he said. “What was more difficult was watching the youths experience that pain.”

“Hansel & Gretl & Heidi & Günter” was featured in Village Theatre’s 18th annual Festival of New Musicals in 2018. The theater company has also developed such new musicals as “Next to Normal,” “Million Dollar Quartet,” “It Shoulda Been You,” “Desperate Measures” and “Lizzie.”

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.

Vortmann’s family still got to see the show in a Sunday evening dress rehearsal. And, not too long ago, Village Theatre surprised the cast with a Zoom party where the cast got to watch archival footage of the show — made so understudies can learn their scenes.

“Although we didn’t get to enjoy a run, they invited all the cast to watch this recording from their homes,” he said. “We got to watch our performances and relive the excitement. It was fantastic to be a part of that, and I thought a better way to close this chapter.”

Vortmann, who holds a bachelor’s degree in vocal performance with a certificate in musical theater performance from Northwest University, has starred in several Village Theatre productions since moving here five years ago.

He played the Wolf and Cinderella’s Prince in 2017’s “Into the Woods,” he was a butler named Crichton in 2017’s “A Proper Place” and he portrayed Mickey in the Village Theatre original “Strings” in 2018. He also played Hansel in “Hansel & Gretl & Heidi & Günter” in the Festival of New Musicals in 2018.

Frank Stilwagner, director of advancement for Village Theatre, shared a behind-the-scenes story about Vortmann’s part in “A Proper Place.”

“Kevin stepped into the lead role three days after opening,” Stilwagner said. “The lead actor tore his Achilles’ heel and was not able to perform the show.”

While Vortmann had auditioned for the lead, he hadn’t even been cast in the show. Three days after opening, Vortmann was the star.

“He’s incredibly talented to say the least, and his commitment to the arts and the organization is to be admired,” Stilwagner said.

The virus may have put a stop to the musical, but it hasn’t kept Vortmann from performing off stage.

He and his wife moved from New York to the Northwest in 2015 to start a family. Which means he has two gigs come bedtime for his boys, 6 and 4: He reads “Harry Potter” and “Thomas the Tank Engine” in well-developed voices and sings some of his kids’ favorite lullabies. He and his sons like to sing in the car, too, but sometimes Dad gets told it’s not his turn.

Vortmann also serves as music director at St. Anne Catholic Church in Seattle, where he sings during live-streamed church services on Sundays.

“My soul is dependent on finding creative outlets for my talent,” Vortmann said. “So much of who I am is wrapped up in performing.”

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

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