Few things have the power to enrapture small children like stories, and those lucky enough to be in the audience for Maine State Ballet’s “Hansel & Gretel” on Saturday afternoon were carried away by this gentle storytelling ballet.

Choreographed by artistic director Linda MacArthur Miele to music excerpted from the operatic version by Engelbert Humperdinck, the ballet presented the classic tale simply and sweetly.

Interludes of exquisite classical dancing, to some of Humperdinck’s most beautiful themes and additional music by ballet composer Adolphe Adam, augmented a story told through a seamless combination of dance, mime and brief interspersed narration.

Mason Hawkes and Alyssa Bryan carried the story charmingly as Hansel and Gretel. Bryan excelled at both the mime that made up the majority of her role and bits of dancing, including teaching Hawkes a little folk dance in the first act and imitating the witch in the second.

The Village Square scene, when Hansel and Gretel and their parents go the market to trade, was lively, colorful and varied.

Brief dances by company soloists alternated with those by younger dancers, including Bryan dancing with four of Gretel’s Friends. Principal dancer Glenn Davis had a dashing cameo as the Woodsman, with nice leaps and a stage-stealing personality.

The first act’s three scenes ended with Hansel and Gretel lost in the forest, where the “14 angels” of Humperdinck’s hauntingly beautiful “Abends will ich schlafen gehn” (“In the evening I will go to sleep”) watched over them, along with the Guardian Angel (Janet Davis).

Davis appeared first behind a woodland curtain, with her outstretched arms showing wings beautifully accomplished by costume designer Gail Csoboth with layers of chiffon flowing down from the sleeves.

Led by Katie Farwell and Juliette Lauzier, the 14 angels danced beautifully in and out of formations around Davis, with a dreamy, almost hypnotic effect perfectly suited to the lullaby.

The sweetness was made even greater when the Little Cherubs (Anna Cook and Acadia Webb) joined Farwell and Lauzier just before the curtain went down.

As the Slumber Fairy, Elizabeth Dragoni was the image of every little girl’s ballerina dreams, graceful and deeply elegant and dressed up in shimmering chiffon with butterfly wings and a fairy’s wand.

The second act portrayed Hansel’s near-demise and Gretel’s outwitting of the witch without being scary for young children. In fact, their laughter (along with that of their adult companions) rang out repeatedly for Frederick Bernier’s portrayal of the Gingerbread Witch.

In a mask with huge chin and nose and a well-padded dress, Bernier waltzed with his beloved broom and danced a solo that integrated ballet with old-time jazz moves and syncopated time steps tapped out in clunky black sneakers.

“Hansel & Gretel” was created for children, but it is a delight for all ages. The Maine State Ballet Theater has been expanded with an extra row of seating, and enhanced by beautiful chandeliers, but the ambiance is still very intimate. Tickets for next Saturday’s repeat performances, also two matinees, are in limited supply. 

Jennifer Brewer is a freelance writer who lives in Saco.