Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen was first published in 1844 and has been one of the most enduring favorites of children and adults everywhere. The classic “good wins over evil” story is purported to have been the inspiration for Disney’s Frozen. One other fun fact: The role of the Snow Queen is rumored to be based on a woman who recently had broken up with Andersen. Burn!
The full house at opening night is a great indication of the popularity of this show. Directed by Jessica McFarland and Stage Managed by Greg Burke, the casting for this show was spot on. In her debut performance at Bay City, Ava Mada played a delightful Gerda, with innocence but commitment to finding her friend Kai. Alex Curry also played a strong Kai, although this stage adaptation by Ron Nicol unfortunately didn’t really give us a much of an opportunity to see Curry as the lovable friend before being ensnared by the Snow Queen. However, at the end of the play you can feel Curry’s adoration for Gerda.
Ron Elliott as the Old Troll was a great narrator and Brianne Dolney made the Snow Queen come to life exactly as you would expect her to be. Than Van Tifflin, in the role of Wild Crow, also reminds us that just because you as an actor are in a mask does not mean you have to be unexpressive. He was hilarious and created, along with Tame Crow, Hope Histed, a wonderful and interesting device to help carry the story.
The ensemble was so much fun. The little trolls were a hoot at the beginning, although I would suggest depending on character and costume more than voice as there were times it was hard to understand them, and I would hate for them to be hoarse by the end of the run. Loved the interaction though. The dancers were adorable and all of the others who filled out the story did an admirable job. And the reindeer, designed and built by Kristen Gray, was an audience favorite.
One helpful suggestion to the cast would be to pick up the pace throughout. It started slowly and had frequent periods of standing or silence waiting for the next transition. A notable exception was when Kai leaves the stage with the Snow Queen and Gerda enters for the next scene with no pause. And it was opening night of course so some dragging jitters can be totally understood.
While I thought the gag with the Princess (Haylie Kilgore) was funny, it took us out of the story and at least for me, so did the modern music used especially for the child ensemble dance number. This of course is just my opinion, but having committed to the set, make-up and costumes as period, the modern elements were jarring.
Now, about that tech. First, the costumes were amazing. Designed by Erica Tatum, they were vivid, complex and extremely well thought out. Dolney’s Snow Queen was tremendous, and I have to say, the costume of Grandmother and Lapp Woman, both played by Leslie Larkins, were so detailed and exact that you could feel the temperature around them. The combination of those costumes, along with the brilliant makeup design of Danessa Hellus, brought us completely into the story. The set, designed Erin Frye, was also beautiful with the throne, of course, being my favorite. In addition, the projections on the scrim upstage completed the storybook feeling almost as if we were turning the pages of the book. That snowmaker is pretty loud, but I decided it must have been the storm.
You really should see Bay City Player’s Snow Queen, but you probably should check right now on tickets as it is going to be a popular one. Bay City Players production of The Snow Queen will run from Dec. 6-8 & 13-15th. Curtain is at 7:30 PM Fridays and Saturday & Sunday matinees are at 3 PM. Tickets are on sale now for $20 adults; $10 students by visiting the box office or phoning 989-835-5555 or going to baycityplayers.com