"It's not an easy thing to open a new musical and a new performing arts venue at the same time," says Susan Aversa-Orrego of Collaborative Theatre Project.
The nonprofit theater company — founded early last fall by Aversa-Orrego, Pam Ward and Obed Medina — worked quickly to establish a home for its stage productions and now ranks as the newest tenant of The Village at Medford Center.
CTP worked closely with Los Angeles-based LBG Real Estate Co. to build the new state-of-the-art theater with doors opening into the center of the promenade within The Village, across from the entrance to Cold Stone Creamery and Tinseltown. The new space offers stadium seating for about 100 patrons.
With the venue nearing completion — and a 2013 musical adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen" in hand — CTP has set a grand opening performance for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1. Performances will continue at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Dec. 2-3, Thursdays through Saturdays, Dec. 8-10 and 15-17, Wednesday through Friday, Dec. 21-23, and Wednesday through Saturday, Dec. 28-31. Matinees are at 1:30 p.m. Sundays, Dec. 4, 11 and 18. Tickets and prices are available online at ctporegon.org.
First presented at San Jose Repertory Theatre, this new version of the classic fairy tale includes music by Haddon Kime, book by Kirsten Brandt and Rick Lombardo, and lyrics by Kime, Brandt and Lombardo, along with steampunk-style set and costume designs. In 2014, it was staged at the New York Musical Theatre Festival, where it garnered awards. CTP plans to develop the colorful and creative musical as a Rogue Valley holiday tradition.
"It's based on the same Hans Christian Andersen tale that inspired the hit coming-of-age Disney animated film 'Frozen,' " says director Aversa-Orrego. "I became fascinated with the story when I was a kid."
While Disney's version deviates somewhat from Andersen's story line, the new musical stays close to the original tale.
"Gerda must try to find her childhood playmate, Kai, who is spirited away by the Snow Queen. On her journey, she finds herself at wits with an evil troll, a zany crow and a flock of birds wearing aviator helmets and goggles, the garden witch, the robber girl, a wacky prince and princess, a snowflake army and other wondrous adventures.
"It's an old, classic fairy tale," she says. "It's a story of friendship and love, and it's about being brave enough to confront the unknown to save her friend. The tagline the creators used for the new show is 'how far would you go to save a friend.' "
CTP has built a set with many levels, gears and cutouts to give it the look of a big factory, Aversa-Orrego says. When the actors walk on stage for the opening number, they arrive in small groups looking as though they are cogs and gears in a machine. There's steam and the sounds of wheels grinding. As the music begins, the actors turn toward the audience and become the characters in the story.
"The music is wonderful, just beautiful," Aversa-Orrego says. "Some of it makes you feel as though you're in the middle of snow flurries or storms. A live orchestra, directed by Karl Iverson, performs the score. There is a lot of new music with a lot of strange, different sounds in it. Iverson has worked hard to bring out the best of it."
Look for Iverson on keys, Ian Harland on keys and vibraphone, Steve Sutfin on percussion, Bruce McKern on bass, and Chun-Han Chou on violin.
Mike Kunkel is lighting designer, Adam Klein is set designer, costumes are by Aversa-Orrego and Adriana Sanchez, and Kayla Garrett choreographs the show. An ensemble cast features Grace Peets as Gerda, Reese Rush as Kai, and Rebecca Campbell as the Snow Queen. Multiple roles are played by Chou, Alex Boyles, Pam Ward, Catherine Hansen, Haley Forsyth, Andrew Pena, Jake Hastings, Aubrey Campbell and Jonah Santana.
"We're very proud of what we've been able to accomplish," Aversa-Orrego says. "We're thrilled. We think it's going to be a wonderful performing arts space for people in the city to visit."