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Review of The Snow Queen at Park Square Theatre

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Quote of the Day: Everyone needs a reindeer friend when you’re traveling through the North Lapland, said the Reindeer (Theo Langason) to Gerda, the hero on a quest to find and save her friend Kai in Park Square Theatre‘s production of The Snow Queen

 

The cast of The Snow Queen at Park Square Theatre. Promo photo from Park Square Theatre

The cast of The Snow Queen at Park Square Theatre. Promo photo from Park Square Theatre

Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen was first published in 1844. The character of the White Witch shows up in C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. They say that Disney used some of the ideas from Andersen’s fairy tale in their hit movie Frozen. The similarities are limited to setting, a heart that is frozen, and a helpful reindeer. Michael Peter Smith‘s musical adaptation of Andersen’s tale follows the original story which was told in seven parts. The first part is about the a mirror, a devil, and a curse that is put on the millions of shards of glass that go out into the world, distorting people’s vision of what is good and magnifying the bad and ugly, and freezing their hearts. I read the book before attending the show and was delighted to see that the characters and imagery are portrayed on stage. Characters range from the human children Gerda and Kai, best friends who are like brother and sister, to talking flowers, the North Wind, a sneaky Enchantress, a Robber family, the Snow Queen (of course), and the aforementioned helpful Reindeer, and many more. This performance was directed by Doug Scholz-Carlson and arranged and orchestrated by Denise Prosek. The music is also by Michael Peter Smith. It is billed as a “folk opera,” which, I think, is an excellent description. The story is mostly sung, although some of the songs a less tuneful and more spoken, while others are glorious and beautiful to hear, much along the lines of Scandinavian folk music (the setting is Denmark). It is a rhythmic show with much choreography throughout, not just dancing, but movement that gives us the feeling of floating on a boat, riding in a carriage, and marching around the ice fishing hole! Jim Lichtscheidl was the choreographer. He also wrote a show called Nice Fish, and a few scenes reminded me of that production (at The Guthrie Theater). The fish puns were hilarious! Uff-Da!

Silas Sellnow as Kai and Caroline Amos as Gerda in Park Square's production of The Snow Queen. Promo photo from Park Square Theatre.

Silas Sellnow as Kai and Caroline Amos as Gerda in Park Square’s production of The Snow Queen. Promo photo from Park Square Theatre.

The first half of the show is quieter. We get the back story of the mirror. We watch the friendship grow between Kai and Gerda. Then, Kai is struck in the eye and heart by the shards of glass and everything changes. He is lured away by the Snow Queen, and Gerda is left to wonder if he’s dead or alive. She begins her quest to find out what happened to her friend. Along the way she is helped, and hindered, by other characters and events. When we came back from intermission, the mood of the play quickly shifted from mystical and thoughtful, to funny and magical. In the end, it was a blend of both. We didn’t clap after any of the songs in the first half. Like I said, it’s a folk opera, and all that clapping would interrupt the flow of the story. In the second half, however, we applauded after the fun and operatic song in the castle, then broke into laughter when Theo Langason came out in his Reindeer costume. OMG. My loud, pitchy laugh popped out at that moment, and my sister said, “Everyone could hear that.” (Which reminded me of the time that my then 7th grade son said that “Everyone could hear you laugh, mom,” at their band concert) The mother/narrator,  Emily Gunyou Halaas (who is incredibly fabulous, BTW), sang a line about “writing a love note on a frozen cod,” and it was fun fish songs and jokes for the next 10 minutes. My sister and I were wiping away tears.

The Snow Queen is a delightful show for the whole family. If your kids are old enough to sit through a two hour production with great songs, humor, and a sweet story, plus one intermission, bring them. Gerda, the female hero, must go on a quest to save her friend Kai. She learns much about herself and the world along the way. This production uses movable set, colorful lighting and projection, shadow puppetry, costuming, and terrific actors who are also the musicians. I went into this show with great expectations, and The Snow Queen exceeded them! Caroline Amos, who plays Gerda, is absolutely fabulous. I wanted to kick off my shoes and be her friend and have adventures, too! Visit The Park Square Theatre website for tickets and showtimes. The Snow Queen is playing Nov. 27 – Dec. 27, 2015 at the St. Paul, MN theatre.

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt: What would you do if your best friends suddenly disappeared from your life?

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