Wednesday, January 17, 2018

ASF Interns: "Snow Queen"

Winter has come to Montgomery -- outside there's snow and ice and frigid temperatures, while inside the Octagon Theatre at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, snowflakes hang from the ceiling, a fairy tale castle's walls surround the audience and a birch tree forest dwarfs a gingerbread house: Robert F. Wolin's charming and magical setting for the ASF Intern Acting Company's production of Snow Queen.

Director Nancy Rominger's adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen classic fairy tale judiciously selects the details of Andersen's lengthy story to fit the engaging tale of magic and the enduring value of love, friendship and self-sacrifice into a one-hour and twenty-minute running time suitable for children who are her target audience.

Snow Queen [1844] has been adapted numerous times for stage, screen, opera, and dance, and has influenced C. S. Lewis' The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and films ranging from "The Huntsman: Winter's War" to Disney's "Frozen". -- A tale about good and evil, and with several lessons to teach, it never grows old.

With an inventive ensemble of eight intern actors, most of whom play multiple roles, the plot recounts Gerda's [Lara Treacy] journey to rescue her best friend Kai [Colin Wulff] from turning into ice brought on by a shard from the Snow Queen's [Katie Fanning] broken mirror getting lodged into his eye. The Snow Queen's mischievous lackey Hemming [Woodrow Proctor] attempts an assortment of ruses to keep Gerda from her task. -- Other cast members [Josh Cahn, Ithamar Francois, Brian Ott, Collin Purcell] play an assortment of roles (grandfather, roses, crow, reindeer, et al.) who either help or hinder her in her journey.

The actors' energy and comfortable ensemble playing keep the action moving, with only a few slower moments; their individualized behaviors and impressive physicality help to bewitch the audience and get the younger ones participating without inhibition.

Children and adults alike are drawn into the action, and delight in the antics of the characters. Pamela Scofield's lush costumes complete the fairy tale picture.

But the lessons come to the fore by the end: never underestimate the smallest of things; do not have "fun" at others' expense; love and the devotion of true friends can resolve almost anything; to forgive those who harm us, whether intentional or not, is an important character trait.

Hans Christian Anderson's beloved Snow Queen warms the heart and soul on a cold winter's day.