By Heidi Sutton
In perfect harmony with the frosty weather outside, “The Snow Queen” opened at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport last weekend to a warm reception. Based on the beloved Hans Christian Andersen story that inspired Disney’s “Frozen,” the musical, co-written by Rick Lombardo and Kirsten Brandt, is told in seven short stories and revolves around a young girl name Gerda, her best friend, Kai, and the power of love and friendship.
The Snow Queen has kidnapped Kai and taken him to her icy palace. There she orders him to solve the Riddle of Eternity by counting all the snowflakes in the world. When Gerda realizes what has happened, she sets off on a dangerous journey to save her friend.
Reminiscent of an Alice in Wonderland experience, Gerda encounters many obstacles along the way including a sneaky Garden Witch, a band of robbers and the blistering cold. Fortunately, she also meets a talking crow, a lovable reindeer and a wise Woman of the North who help her reach the palace.
Alyson Leonard expertly directs a talented adult cast of five, all of whom, with the exception of the lead, play multiple roles throughout the show. Stephanie Krasner, last seen in the role of Rapunzel, returns to Engeman’s stage as Gerda, who proves to be a faithful friend willing to go to the ends of the Earth to save Kai. Her courage and determination has the audience rooting for her from the beginning. Matthew Rafanelli is terrific as Kai, trapped within the clutches of the Snow Queen but absolutely shines as the Crow who helps Gerda.
TracyLynn Connor gives the Snow Queen an icy regalness but also plays the role of a rose, princess and robber girl with ease. From her first appearance on stage as an old woman to her last as the Wise Woman of the North, Jacqueline Hughes’s performance is always top notch. Her solo “Breathe” takes your breath away and her various accents are impressive.
Last seen in “The Wizard of Oz,” Danny Meglio tackles the role of the troll, prince and sweet reindeer this time around. Helping Gerda reach the castle in the darkness and the cold as the reindeer is one of the most memorable scenes in the show.
Although at times Gerda’s journey may seem a bit long, the wonderful songs including “Flying,” “The Real Reality,” “Here I Am,” “Never Give Up” and “The End,” written by Haddon Kime, more than make up for its shortcomings, and you will find yourself humming these songs for days to come. Those familar with Andersen’s fairy tale won’t be disappointed with the ending and will go back out into the air with a warm heart after realizing that love conquers all.
The show is recommended for ages 8 and up because of its complex storyline, although younger children will enjoy it for the beautiful costumes, special effects and songs. Meet the entire cast in the lobby for autographs and photos after the show. An autograph page is conveniently located at the end of the program.
The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport will present “The Snow Queen” on Saturdays at 11 a.m. and Sundays at 10:30 a.m. through March 5. Up next is “Madagascar: A Musical Adventure” from March 25 to April 30. All seats are $15. To order, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.