When I was six, I knew all of the words to the songs from the musical film Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang, off by heart. I would sing along to the original soundtrack album, which I played over and over, and over again in my room, until it drove everyone else in the house mad.
Certain of the cultural artifacts of that era, like Oliver!, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, or The Jungle Book, were must see events anytime they appeared at the local cinema or on television. In those pre–VCR, DVD, or Digital streaming halcyon days, it was truly a special occasion to reconnect with something that was so beloved from my childhood.
So trust me folks, I get it.
For the young teens and children of today, the arrival of the 2013 Disney animated musical film, Frozen, was a gigantic and titanic ice mountain, looming large in their lives. In the past seven years, the cultural impact of this film, the Broadway version that opened at the St James Theatre in New York in 2018, and the endless repackaging and remix versions of “Let it Go”, the certified triple platinum hit single sung by Idina Menzel, have cemented the words and melody, into our collective cultural consciousness.
And the story that Frozen tells, freely adapted from Hans Christian Anderson’s 1844 fairy tale The Snow Queen, but liberally rewritten to transform the evil wicked snow queen, of the original story, into one of two sisters. They are the misunderstood orphaned princesses of Arrandale, Elsa and Anna, who overcome obstacles in their path, to reconnect with love, and against the prejudices and intrigues that surround them at court. It celebrates sisterhood, and the greater roles of women in society, it is transformative and leaches important lessons, and yet still does so, in an emotionally fulfilling and empowering way.
This musical teaches us important ideas; there are heartfelt morals and lessons here, about the acceptance of others who are different, about reaching your true potential with the gifts you are given in life, and about understanding the differences between what people say to you, when they want something, and what they do about it, after they get what they want. Family dynamics are core to that, and the ultimate discovery that not all members of your family will be by blood, that some may in fact be, comedic animated snowmen, or raindeer, or handsome Nordic ice cutters.
Which brings us at last, after much preamble, to Curtain Call Productions, who are the very first local company, to have gotten the stage rights to Disney’s Frozen, Jr, a shorter hour long version of Disney’s hit musical. These rights at last, although very expensive, became available this past January, from Music Theatre International.
I expect the production costs for this show were massive. As Disney restricts the size of the performance venue, the maximum ticket price, and the methods by which a local producer can advertise and sell tickets, the breakeven point on this production must be very high.
This company are presenting their version of the story at the Staircase Theatre, for one more weekend. In order to qualify for this, the company of performers cannot be over the age of 18, so a cast of 15 young actors enacts the story on the tiny stage of the venue.
Co–Artistic Directors, Danielle Viola and Kat Baranowski, have delivered a high energy, smaller scale version of this beloved story. An impressive ensemble has been forged out of the raw talents on offer, with mostly girls ranging from ten to seventeen, utterly committed and involved in the show. A shortage of boys, or of a larger group, means that everyone involved onstage, plays a number of roles, changing costumes endlessly to fill out the various production numbers.
Hamilton born, Westdale Secondary School graduate, Cassie Levy, debuted as Elsa, in the Broadway production, two years ago. And so the dream of following in her footsteps, must be the minds of at least some, of the young women in this production. Perhaps the main reason, why so many of the performers got involved here, is just to get the opportunity to learn all of the songs and choreography that the show requires of its company.
Acting, singing and dancing, are performance skills, in that one learns how to do them, by doing them. You get better, and better, the more that you practice these skills, and performing in a show, that you love, is one of the best experiences of all, for an aspiring actor.
Space prevents me, from mentioning all of the many fine performances in this production of Frozen, Jr, but I would be remiss if I did not call out Adasynn Malec’s “Elsa”, Emma Clarke’s “Anna” and a rare lad involved, Elliot May, playing the thirteenth prince of a neighbouring Kingdom, “Hans”. Elora Andrews, also shined in the comic role of “Olaf”, and Raelee Steele gave us a stalwart “Kristoff”.
From what I could see, every single one of the kids on stage was having the time of their lives. And this, I can testify, from my own experience, is a fleeting and precious thing.
Ten years from now, it is unlikely that very many of the youngsters in this production will still be involved in the performing arts, as sports, jobs, relationships and marriage, post secondary education, and the so very many different choices, will lead them onwards, to more normal and secure occupations, in life.
If even one of them, went on to follow in the footsteps of Cassie Levy, and make a career in the theatre, this would be an extraordinary thing. But a love of theatre, is the legacy that these programs give us.
Still no matter. For one brief shining moment, on the tiny stage of the Staircase Theatre, these kids got to live their dream. That can be more than many of us, ever accomplish in life. I salute them for what they have done here. V
Presented by Curtain Call Productions,
The Staircase Theatre
27 Dundurn St. North, Hamilton
January 24 & 25, at 7:00 pm Matinees: 25 & 26, at 2:00pm
Tickets: $15 (General Admission)
To buy online, visit bruha.com, or www.curtaincallpac.ca (other participating Community Theatre group members with ID)