By Heidi Sutton
When Hans Christian Andersen penned “The Snow Queen” in 1844 he surely had no idea that his beautiful fairy tale would live on and serve as the inspiration for Walt Disney Animation Studio’s Frozen over 150 years later. The second highest-grossing animated movie of all time, (Frozen II is the highest) it has morphed into a Broadway musical, short films, Disney on Ice and everything in between.
Now the timeless tale heads to the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts Center for 29 performances in the form of Frozen Jr. With music and lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez and book by Jennifer Lee, the show features all of the beloved songs from the animated film along with a few fun new ones.
The story follows two sisters who are princesses in the kingdom of Arendelle. The eldest, Elsa, was born with magical powers that allow her to create ice and snow. As a young child, Elsa doesn’t know how to control her powers and while building a snowman she accidentally harms her sister Anna. Although Anna is healed by the mysterious Hidden Folk, their parents decide it would be best to protect Anna by keeping the two apart.
Anna, who has no memory of the accident, can’t understand why her sister avoids her. When the parents are lost at sea, Elsa stays in her room, keeping her secret hidden from her sister and the outside world.
Ten years have passed and it is time for Elsa to become Queen, but on coronation day her magic unintentionally brings an eternal winter to the kingdom. Accused of sorcery, she flees into the mountains to hide. Anna enlists the help of Kristoff the icemaker to help her find her sister and free Arendelle from the spell. Will she succeed?
Directed and choreographed by Courtney Braun with musical direction by Melissa Coyle, the production is polished from start to finish. Ranging in age from 8 to 17, the 24-member cast is extremely talented and clearly love what they are doing. Special mention must be made of Leah Kelly and Lorelai Mucciolo for standout performances in the role of Elsa and Anna.
Lorelai’s bubbly personality shines in “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?,” “For the First Time In Forever” and in her fun duet, “Love is An Open Door,” with Luke Hampson who plays the role of Hans. In contrast, Leah’s character is more reserved, fearful of the powers inside her, and carries herself like royalty. Her vocals are incredible and she literally brings the house down with her powerful number “Let It Go.” Both are perfectly cast.
Elena Grassi and Jillian Cerrato as Young Anna and Young Elsa and Riley Ferraro and Gabby Blum as Middle Anna and Middle Elsa set up the relationship between the two sisters perfectly. Much to the delight of the younger children in the audience, Olaf the Snowman (played by Ryan Romanelli) and Sven the reindeer (played by Derek Hough) make an appearance as well.
Costumes, designed by Chakira Doherty, are stunningly beautiful and her attention to detail is impeccable. Of special note is when Elsa changes costumes mid-song during “Let It Go” and turns into an ice queen with a beautiful blue shimmering dress, drawing gasps from the audience.
A nice addition is the animated projections on a screen depicting different locations in the Kingdom of Arendelle including the inside and outside of the castle, the snowy mountains and Elsa’s ice castle. Large panels on either side of the stage turn with the scenes and the lighting pulls it all together for a magical experience.
The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts has gone all out in this production and it shows. The team has succeeded in bringing the the mystical world of Arendelle to life on the stage. If your child loves Frozen, they will love this show. And what’s better than live theater? Costumes are encouraged and booster seats are available. Meet Elsa and Anna in the lobby for a photo and pick up a Frozen souvenir on your way out.
The cast: Leah Kelly, Lorelai Mucciolo, Brody Hampson, Ryan Romanelli, Derek Hough, Luke Hampson, Ari Spiegel, Michael Gualtieri, Ryan Van Nostrand, Gabrielle Arroyo, Justin Walsh Weiner, Zachary Podair, Alia Romanelli, Elena Grassi, Jillian Cerrato, Gabby Blum, Dori Alghrim, Riley Ferraro, Adrienne Porti, Mairead Camas, Savannah Shaw, Sophia Weiner, Jonathan Setzer and Gianna Oppedisano.
The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. Main St., Smithtown presents Frozen Jr. through Jan. 17 with a special sensory sensitive performance on Dec. 4 at 7 p.m. All seats are $25. To order, call 631-724-3700 or visit www.smithtownpac.org.
All photos by Courtney Braun