The Snow Queen Theatre Review: A Grown-up Fairy Tale
Victory Gardens presents
The Snow Queen
Music and Lyrics by Michael Barrow Smith
Puppet Design by Blair Thomas and Meredith Miller
Directed by Jim Corti
Once upon a time in a far away land, there lived a girl named Gerda and her best friend Kai. Their playful lives are carefree until one day when Kai is seduced by the Snow Queen and leaves home. Distraught, Gerda sets out on a rescue mission. Victory Gardens presents Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen. Quickly becoming a Victory Gardens’ holiday tradition, The Snow Queen was originally adapted in 2006 by Michael Barrow Smith, Frank Galati and Blair Thomas. As far as fairy tales go, The Snow Queen isn’t a simple kiss awake, slipper fits, or apple regurgitation liberation. Hans Christian Anderson creates unusual barriers for Gerda to overcome in a quest to save her dude in distress. Staying true to Anderson’s imagination, the Smith Galati Thomas team tell the complex tale in a very non-Disney style. It’s not really a kid’s show. It’s a grown up fairy tale that appeals to everyone’s inner child.
Utilizing a live band and narrator, the story is primarily told through songs. Michael Barrow Smith has masterfully translated Anderson’s writings into contemporary folk songs. “Princess and Memory” (sung by Barbara Barrow) and “Love Letter on a Fish” (sung by Sue Demel) are particular standout songs with hysterical and unexpected lyrics. For all the songs, lyrics are projected on the left wall of the theatre. The projection is warranted to ensure the audience’s understanding of the witty verses. The location is prohibitive to the performance’s focal point. Onstage, the musicians collectively serve as a human border to the action. Individually, a band member steps into the action to portray a character. The band is so instrumental to the show that it seems more like a folk concert with interesting visuals than a play with fantastic audio. Aiding the band in storytelling, the powerful voices of Leslie Ann Sheppard (Gerda) and Cheryl Lynn Bruce (the narrator) provide a nice juxtaposition of lively child and wise sage.
With only vague recollection of the childhood story, The Snow Queen produces preconceived notions of a glittery white winter wonderland. In this production, the costumes (Tatjana Radisic) and set (Jeff Bauer) have taken a Danish direction. With a more folksy and authentic feel, the costumes are Denmark village apparel. The set includes a framed shadow box with familiar Dutch cut-out figures and images. The snow queen and other characters are portrayed with puppets created by Blair Thomas and Meredith Miller. The puppets range from small on a stick, frightening (raven) to big, scary, disturbing (snow queen). Although once again more true to Anderson’s imagination, the costumes, scenery and puppets are not the glitzy enchantment of a Disney production. The missing whimsical shiny elements and the kid behind me kicking my chair reinforce a PG-13 rating.
Living happily ever after, Jennie describes the show as quirky, energetic and surprising.
WAITING FOR THE SHOW
Always on the quest to find a decent pre-theatre restaurant on Lincoln Avenue, I researched and found Soiree Lounge (2438 North Lincoln Avenue). It promotes itself as a swanky restaurant and lounge with global appetizers and sleek martinis. So arriving on a cold December evening, I find the place all lit up and no one home. Although the welcome sign says it opens at 5pm, the locked doors at 5:45pm say “go away”. I stumble down two doors to Lincoln Station (2432 North Lincoln Avenue). Conveniently located directly across from the Biograph Theatre, Lincoln Station is one of a million bar & grills located on Lincoln Avenue. Friendly bartender, check. House shiraz, check. Turkey wrap, check. My non-drinking, vegan cousin is also able to satisfy her appetite with the house salad. Being a bit of a snow princess, I long for an outstanding Apollo-Biograph-Green pre-theatre dinner experience. I guess I’ll continue to kiss a lot of frogs until I find a charming Lincoln Avenue restaurant.
After the show, The Snow Queen cast is collecting donations for Season of Concern. This organization, supported by the theatre community, provides direct assistance to people with AIDS. I make a donation to make someone’s “ever after” a little happier.