If you’re expecting someone to sing “Let It Go,” you’ll be disappointed. But if you’re ready to experience the story that inspired Disney’s 2013 animated hit “Frozen,” you’re in luck.
Playmakers of Baton Rouge will stage “The Snow Queen, or When Christmas Freezes Over” beginning Thursday, Dec. 11, in the Reilly Theatre.
- Jessica Puller wrote the stage adaptation of this 1844 Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale with music and lyrics by Rich Maisel.
“I wouldn’t call it a musical — I’d call it a play with music,” says Anthony McMurray, artistic director. He’d also call it the original “Frozen,” but acknowledges that it doesn’t have much in common with the Disney film.
- “Disney was going to base its film on the original fairy tale, but it changed the story in the end,” McMurray says. “That’s happened with a lot of the fairy tales that have become Disney films. Take ‘The Little Mermaid,’ for instance. There’s no way Disney would have presented that fairy tale as it was.”
In the original Andersen tale, the mermaid dies at the end of the story.
In “The Snow Queen,” Gerda is the story’s heroine, the teenager who must rescue her childhood friend Kai from the Snow Queen’s icy clutches.
“She and Kai grew up together, and they don’t realize they really like each other until the end,” says Sarah Fruge, who plays Gerda. “The Snow Queen has taken Kai, and the audience watches Gerda’s transformation from an introvert to a strong girl who builds enough courage to tell Kai she loves him.”
Once again, “Frozen” fans will not recognize some of the names in ‘The Snow Queen.” There’s no Elsa and Anna, and unlike the movie, Gerda and the Snow Queen aren’t siblings.
“And there’s no talking snowman named Olaf,” McMurray says. “But there is lots of comedy, and adults will enjoy it as much as children because it has so much slapstick. It also has some clever jokes and references that are elevated a little higher to adults.”
Still, audience members are invited to come dressed as their favorite “Frozen” characters. Or even a character from another story. “They can come dressed as anyone,” McMurray says. “The more who dress up, the better. It just makes the production that much more fun.”
The real fun begins when Landon Simpson steps onstage as the Troll. Simpson is a 14-year-old student at Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic School. He has been a cast member in Playmakers’ productions in the last four years, but “The Snow Queen” marks his first time playing a major character in a professional cast.
He’s taking the task seriously. The Troll in Puller’s adaptation is the story’s comic relief, but even comic characters require development.
“I didn’t know much about the Troll until I started playing him,” Simpson says. “That’s when I realized that he’s pretty goofy, and the more I played him, the more I developed his personality. He’s not really the bad guy; he’s more of a servant to the Snow Queen.”
Puller wrote the stage play in the spirit of a British pantomime, where one character speaks directly to the audience. Pantomimes also traditionally include a male actor playing a female character.
“We have Carter Dean in the character of Dame, which we’re trying to present as a great-grandmother,” McMurray says. “Carter is a big guy, so this will be funny to see.”
Playing the title role will be Miss Louisiana USA runner-up Monique McCain.
Some of the biggest stars of this production may be the behind-the-scenes staff members.
“We’re working with some amazing people on this show,” McMurray says. “We have Amanda Sager from the Goodman Theatre in Chicago doing our sound design. She got her start at LSU and Playmakers. Our lighting designer is Chelsea Touchet, who works with the LSU Opera.”
- The snow white set will capture everyone’s attention. It was designed and built by Patric Sullivan, set designer for both “Pitch Perfect” movies, which were filmed in Baton Rouge.
“Movie set designers are different than theater designers,” McMurray says. “Theater designers are given a certain amount of time, and they plan their designs within that time frame. If a movie designer can build a set in a day, he’ll do it.”
“The Snow Queen’ set resembles an ice castle with familiar steps leading to its landing.
“Those are the steps that are in the opening of the first ‘Pitch Perfect’ movie,” McMurray says.
- CAST: Monique McCain, Snow Queen; Wil Thomas, Erick; Spencer Smith, Derick; Carter Dean, Dame; Sarah Fruge, Gerda; Ben Ross, Kai; Landon Simpson, Troll; Flora DeMoss, Crow; Emily Rodriguez, Ma; Michael Guillot, Pa; Madison Roy, Desdemona; Snow Bees — Anna Katherine Harrell, Susie Lucas, Virginia Moore
- ARTISTIC STAFF: Anthony McMurray, director; Lisa Smith, music director; Elizabeth Thomas, stage manager; Patric Sullivan, set designer; Kazli Sullivan, costume designer; Chelsea Touchet, lighting designer; Amanda Sager, sound designer; Todd Henry, executive director; Danielle Adams, education direcctor.