Monday, November 11, 2019

Disney’s Frozen, Jr.—Eastside Theater Company—Gresham, OR


           Cold Hands/Warm Heart


    This Young folks version of the classic animated Disney musical has book by Jennifer Lee and music and lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez & Robert Lopez, is directed by Josh Johnson, choreographed by Sarah Rose and musical direction by Kelsey Hoeffel.  It is playing at the Springwater Church space, 3445 SE Hillyard Rd. in Gresham, through November 17th.  For more information, go to their site at www.EastsideTheater.com or call 971-231-5032.

    This is based on one of Disney’s best animated films, which is based on Hans Christen Anderson’s, The Snow Queen.  It also has more than a passing nod to C. S. Lewis’s classic books of Narnia, both concerning a White Witch trying to prevent summer from occurring.  If you’re not familiar with these stories, shame on you!

    In the current situation of global warming and the MeToo Movement, this is very relevant material in three ways.  The first being, in this case, a land that is warming too fast according to scientists (who should know).  The second being the emergence of two strong female characters, who had no need of men trying to control them.  And the third being, the almost lost art of utilizing the imagination, where anything is possible. 

    And, in this case, a fourth element could be added, the Young (1st thru 12th grade exclusively) who portrayed all the roles.  This is probably the most important, as recent incidents have the Youth of our world speaking out against gun violence, environmental concerns and human rights, as opposed to most whining government leaders sitting on their hands on these important issues.    But, maybe, that’s important, too, as it is said that, “a child shall lead them!”

    The story concerns two sisters, Elsa (Ana Grayce Krachinski) and Anna (Ava Marie Horton), who grew up together as friends but had to be separated at a young age because of an accident caused by Elsa, using her magic powers indiscriminately and causing harm to Anna.  (The youngest Elsa is performed by Abby Levy and Ava Grant and the youngest Anna is Claire Horton and Evie Bertsch—the middle Elsa is Lilly Anderson and Anna is Ellen Horton and Sidra Cohen-Mallon…it’s not indicated who played these roles on Sunday night but I assume the Hortons, since the adult Anna was played by a Horton, too.)

    Princess Elsa is gloved for her young life because of her magic contained within her hands and, in time, this causes an estrangement between sisters.  Then their parents die and Elsa, the eldest, is crowned Queen but, feeling rejected, she escapes to form her own kingdom of ice.  Meanwhile, Princess Anna has met a young prince, Hans (Simeon Johnson), who she is smitten with.  But she chooses to go off and find her sister.  Also, along the way she befriends Olaf (puppet controlled by Joseph Kassing), a goofy snowman; Kristoff (Ethan Golden), an honest woodsman, and his trusty, reindeer companion, Sven (Anneliza Bates), who will aid her in her quest.  To see how it all turns out, you’ll just have to attend the play.

    The famous songs, For the First Time in Forever, Love is an Open Door, In Summer, and, of course, Let It Go, are all there and beautifully rendered, as are some pretty elaborate dance pieces, well executed, with the chorus, by Rose.  And Johnson has done an amazing job with a large cast of youth, blocking some pretty intricate scenes and keeping everything under control, as well as moving the show along at a brisk pace.  The music could be toned down a bit as it, on occasion, overpowers the singing.

    Also, the costumes by Liz Bertsch, Tracey Hugo and Jeannette VanOrsow were a huge asset, as were some neat video projections (Adam Bertsch) and set pieces (Chris Dick), which also aided in the production’s success.  It is not clear who did the designs for Olaf or Sven (his jaw needs a bit of WD-40, though) but they were very well done.

    And there was not a weak link in the entire cast, everyone pulling their weight and giving it their all.  I especially liked the youngest Horton (I believe), as Anna, as well as the Duke (Alex Hugo) and Oaken (Ezra Johnson), very animated.  Kassing was a gas, giving life to Olaf.  But the show rests mainly on Elsa & Anna and Krachinski & Horton were perfect.  Elsa’s key song, Let It Go, almost blew the roof off the building—terrific.  And Horton’s, Anna, was not only very vigorous in enacting the role but also managed to musically give depth to her songs.  Both young ladies have a future in musical theatre if that is their goal!

    This young troop is well worth watching (next up Willy Wonka… and Shrek), as this production proves that talent and heart go a long way in creating magic onstage.  This production ranks with any musical I’ve seen by more mature companies!  I highly recommend this show.  It only plays for one more weekend, so don’t miss it!.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.
--DJS


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