The Snow Queen, or
When Christmas Freezes Over!
Full of family fun, this is one cool play to take the kids
|Piccolo Theatre presents|
|The Snow Queen,
or When Christmas Freezes Over!
Review by Anuja Vaidya
Fairytales tend to be incredibly predictable. Most involve good triumphing over evil, love conquering all and a couple of good-hearted creatures who often have magical capabilities. But that is precisely what I love about fairytales. There is a comfort to knowing that a happy ending is guaranteed and that the proverbial hero and heroine will ride off into the sunset together. It allows you to sit back, relax and enjoy the journey, as it were. Piccolo Theatre‘s The Snow Queen, or When Christmas Freezes Over includes all the fairytale clichés that make them so wonderfully predictable, and then some. Mixing the highbrow and lowbrow, the silly and sophisticated, this production gives audiences two hours of family fun – although it tends to lack luster on some counts.
The plot is fairly straightforward, but punctuated with some wonderful meta-moments and contemporary political humor. The lovely and pure-at-heart Gerda is hopelessly in love with the kind, and sometimes vapid, Kai. She is so in love with him that she becomes completely tongue-tied around him, and hence has never been able to express how she truly feels. Enter her rather bawdy but well-meaning grandmother and their two servants who are also hoping for a happy ending for Kai and Gerda. But trouble rears its ugly head in the form of the Snow Queen. She is vain and selfish and uses her powers to coerce people into doing whatever she wants. However, the most evil, heinous and unforgivable aspect of her character is her love of terrible snow-related puns. No, really, they are chilling (no pun intended). The Snow Queen steals Kai away, with the help of her loyal servants – a troll and couple of snow bees. Our heroine must then embark on a brave quest with her loyal helpers to rescue him. And along the way she finds courage she didn’t know she had, but of course.
As with most of Piccolo’s productions, the costumes and sets are lovely. The costumes, by Trina McGee, are brightly colored and many have big patterns, making for great visuals and adding to the silly and child-like nature of the production. Kari Warfield and Angela Guest have gone through great efforts to create a magical world with the scenic design. A particularly impressive touch is the use of puppetry in the form of cutouts of different creatures, which appears to be suspended in mid-air. They visually represent the battle of pun-related jokes between two of the characters. While this certainly adds to the play and is enjoyable to watch, it moves a tad too slowly. The rather slow movements of the creatures in the air take away from the sense of urgency and suspense that should be there at that moment in the play.
For the most part, the cast gives pitch-perfect performances. A certain amount of "hamming" is warranted, even necessary, in a pantomime, and the cast steps up to plate. Claire Hart as Gerda is an absolute delight to watch. Not only is her comic timing impeccable, she doesn’t allow Gerda to become cloyingly sweet, retaining a sense of determination and spunk that makes one respect her. Kurt Proepper as Kai also gives an enjoyable performance, perfecting the look of vapidity that his character exudes for most of the play. Joshua Allard is wonderful as the grandmother and plays her bawdiness with aplomb. The only disappointment in terms of performances is the Snow Queen herself. While Vanessa Hughes does manage to portray the Snow Queen’s vain and petty personality, there is something missing in her performance. It seems a tad dispirited, almost as though she hasn’t quite bought into the ridiculous nature of the script.
It is rare, particularly in the world of theater, to find shows that are quite genuinely "fun for the whole family." The Snow Queen, or When Christmas Freezes Over certainly fits the bill. Its mix of over-the-top humor, physical comedy and meta-jokes, ensures that it appeals to all ages. Not to mention the fact that audience is asked to interact with the actors and shout out warnings and encouragement during the show. Ultimately, the show allows for a momentary dip into a world where everything is clear-cut, where no obstacle is insurmountable and where true love always wins.
The Snow Queen, or When Hell Freezes Over! continues through December 21st at the Evanston Arts Depot, 600 Main, Evanston (map), with performances Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm, Sundays 3pm. Tickets are $10-$25 ($65 for a family of 4), and are available by phone (phonenumber) or online through PrintTixUSA.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at PiccoloTheatre.com. (Running time: 2 hours, includes an intermission)
Photos by Robert Erving Potter III
Josh Ballard (Erick), Andy Huttel (Derick), Claire Hart (Gerda), Joshua Allard (Dame Grandmother), Nathan Thompson (Troll), Vanessa Hughes (Snow Queen), Caitlin Aase, Sarah Mayhan, Shane Hill (the Snow Bees), Kurt Proepper (Kai), Jillian Weingart (Crow), Caitlin Aase (Ma), Shane Hill (Pa), Sarah Mayhan (Desdemona)
behind the scenes
Nicole Keating (director), Rich Maisel (music & lyrics), Lauren Goode (assistant director), Joshua Allerd, Vanessa Hughes (choreography), Amanda Kulczewski (production manager), Elyse Estes (stage manager), Steve Yandell (floor manager), Kris Kontour (technical director), Kari Warfield (scenic artist), Angela Guest (assistant scenic artist), Trina McGee (costume design), Aimee Warshall (lighting design), David W. M. Kelch (sound designer, black arts sound design), Nicholas Spence (graphic design), Lee Moore (properties design), Robert Erving Potter III (photographer)