It may have been a sunny day outside on Wednesday afternoon, but inside, the John Glenn Middle School auditorium was transformed into a snowy kingdom welcoming the audience to the production of Disney’s “Frozen JR.”
Wednesday’s final dress rehearsal was a sensory-supportive event with the John Glenn Middle School directing staff of “Frozen JR.” in partnership with SEPAC ( Special Education Parent Advisory Council.)
As children arrived, they were given a goodie bag – earphones to wear for the performance to help with sensory overload as well as fidgets, a tool used to help with focus, attention, and self-soothing.
As with most sensory-supported environments, the house lights were dimmed and movement and noise from the audience was welcomed. A chill zone was also available for those who needed a break from the show. The cast and crew of about 100 students were excited to provide this performance, and the audience was eager to view it.
“Frozen JR.” is based on the 2018 Broadway musical written by Jennifer Lee. It was first planned to be shown at JGMS in March 2020 when the Covid lockdown forced the play to be canceled… but, as the English poet Lady Mary Montgomerie Currie (under her pseudonym of Violet Fane, in her poem “Tout”) said, “Good things come to those who wait.”
The show was brimming with a talented cast of characters, shining brighter because of the hard work of the dedicated behind-the-scenes crew.
In the Wednesday performance, Steven Sandler not only played the part of Oaken, but stepped forward to also play Prince Hans of the Frozen Isles when Gavin Derderian became ill and had to go home.
The characters of Anna and Elsa were played by no fewer than six actresses: young Anna was played by Molly Gould and young Elsa was played by Maggie Harte, while the middle Anna was played by Ella Dadah and middle Elsa was played by Emma Sayles. The grownup Anna was played by Jasmine Antriasian and the grownup Elsa was played by Emma Cohen. All offered a wonderful performance in their roles, each enhanced by the dazzling fairy-tale costume changes as they grew from childhood to adults.
With the perfect blend of dialogue, song, dance, and props, this emotionally-moving play tugged at the heartstrings of the viewers.
The audience was mesmerized by Elsa’s magical power to create ice and snow and felt the pain and fear when Else accidentally hit her younger sister on the head with the ice and their parents took them to the Trolls to save Anna’s life.
With the actors’ well-crafted performance, the audience could feel the sadness of the growing separation between the sisters when Elsa departs without realizing she has left their land of Arendelle in permafrost, and the hope of a reunion when the newly engaged Anna (to Prince Hans) sets out to find her sister.
The well-designed sets helped the story transition from scene to scene. Accompanied by Kristoff and Sven, Anna leaves the classic castle and wanders through the snowy mountains in search of her sister.
During her pursuit, Anna comes across Olaf, the snowman she and her sister used to make when they were small. Olaf, who is played by Isaac Poulter, adds comic relief as his character sings in praise of summer.
The performance of the ensemble snow dancers was amplified by the vitality of the choreography as well as their enthusiasm.
Joseph Choi played his role of Kristoff, the ice man, very well, charming the audience immediately. The repartee between him and his reindeer companion, Sven, was great fun to watch.
When the play ends with the nefarious Prince Hans caught up in his wicked ways and Anna looking for Kristoff, the audience, filled with a melodious heart, was well pleased with this performance.
So much so that as the cast sang the finale, some of the young children in the audience neared the stage and shouted out “Goodbye, Anna, goodbye Elsa.” Some of these youngsters were dressed in their own costumes from the movie version of “Frozen.”
At the beginning of the play, Aiden Green in the character of Sven requested the audience to refrain from singing throughout the play; they would be invited to the sing-along at the play’s ending.
That invitation immediately brought the animated youngsters to the front of the stage, singing and dancing to the music, turning somersaults, and waving their magic wands.
Following the sing-along, it was time to get the actors’ autographs. Many of the young children were accompanied by their parents, which was gratifying to both the actors and the autograph recipients.
A big thanks goes to the director Aidan Tatar and music directors Natan Wythe and Lauren Hart for this delightful performance of “Frozen JR.”
Katrina Faulstich was both the Technical Director and Lighting Electrician and Ben Kline was the Lighting Designer. Both worked to make this sensory-supportive event work for its audience.
The lighting and sound crews did an awesome job creating moods and ambiance on the stage. It helped to use the lighting that was donated by the high school after it purchased new equipment and a lighting board.
Also, Jennifer Buckley and Stephanie Busa are the excellent choreographers on the directing team. Also on the team Paul Grady, who served as the Student Coordinator.
After the performance, the cast and crew gathered on stage for feedback on their performance. Director Aidan Tatar was heard to say “you brought tears to my eyes” as she praised the performance of the cast and those who worked behind the scenes to make this play so enjoyable.
Performances in the John Glenn Middle School auditorium will be held at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 30, and Friday, March 31, and at 2 and 7 p.m. on Saturday, April 1. The performance on Friday evening will also be live-streamed.
Tickets can be purchased at www.showtix4u.com/events/23538 for $10 each. The online box office will close two hours prior to each performance time; tickets will also be sold at the door, if available.
Disney’s “Frozen JR.” is appropriate for all audiences. The show runs 60 minutes with no intermission. Concessions will be sold after each show by POMS.
The Saturday matinee performance will feature a meet and greet with Princesses and Leads: Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, Sven, Hans, and Olaf before the show from 1:30 to 2 p.m. in the JGMS auditorium.
Disney’s “Frozen JR.” is presented through special arrangement with Music Theater International.
Doris Smith is the arts and cultural writer for The Bedford Citizen. The Arts and Cultural Reporter is supported by a grant from the Bedford Cultural Council.