Fairy tale meets steam punk in Collaborative Theatre Project’s 2017 production of “The Snow Queen,” a wonderful, not-so-sweet holiday tradition, and a fantastical story of friendships that triumph over adversity.
Young Kai, played by Evan Sheets, is entranced by the Snow Queen, a beautifully evil witch played by Rose Passione. With a kiss as cold as winter, the Snow Queen steals Kai’s heart and his senses, and whisks him away to her icy castle at the edge of infinity. Gerda, played by Grace Peets, faces adversity, danger and magic as she travels the land searching for her childhood friend.
Sheets is a marvel as Kai, obsessed with the math of snowflakes, overwhelmed with an infinite puzzle and increasingly colder and more manic as the Snow Queen’s freezing hold becomes stronger. His frenzied scribbling on walls and floors noticeably ages the boy, and he becomes whiter and whiter, older and colder in his madness.
As Gerda, Peets will steal your heart as she saves Kai’s soul. She’s a tiny little thing wearing red flats, dwarfed by the set and other characters. At times, Peets is lifted up and turned about, seemingly as small as a doll with big eyes and tumbling curls. Peets is so pure and courageous in the role of Gerda that it’s hard to imagine her in an earlier Collaborative Theatre Project role as sex-bomb, star-struck, psychotic Bonnie in "Bonnie and Clyde." This is Grace Peets’ second year playing Gerda in CTP’s “The Snow Queen.”
The Snow Queen, played by Rose Passione, is icy and distant. The mindless movements of her hands play into her frozen heart. All of the costumes are exceptional in the production — the goggles, headwear, corsets and heels — the mixed and raggedy style is so steam punk. The Snow Queen’s costume in contrast is gorgeous with its satin, sequins and lace that frame her cold, alabaster skin.
Among those new to the Collaborative Theatre stage is Andrew Brock, a talented and very peculiar guy who plays three of Snow Queen’s strangest beings: The Troll, The Old Crow and The Reindeer. Wonderful head pieces and costuming sets these characters apart, and so do Brock’s movements — his performance is comically weird and utterly delightful. In her second year in CTP’s “The Snow Queen,” Catherine Hanson, as Garden Witch and Lady Crow, is Brock’s perfectly bizarre counterpart, shouting at flowers with a German accent and switching to some sort of cockney as she cares for Gerda.
Susan Aversa-Orrego directs the production, a beloved Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, adapted for the musical stage in 2013 by Kirsten Brandt, Haddon Kime and Rick Lombardo. Aversa-Orrego brings her unique and imaginative experience to play in a set filled with snowflakes, trolls, talking flowers and odd beings. The story captured Aversa-Orrego as a child when her mother gave her a Snow Queen coloring book.
“I can still see the pictures in my mind. I didn't want to color them because I didn't want to get the book messed up,” Aversa-Orrego remembers. “I kept it uncolored for years and colored it over and over again in my mind. It's always been my absolute favorite fairy tale.”
Musical Director Karl Iverson brings together a large and talented cast, all with solid vocal roles, performing to live music. Their coherent performance sets the stage from the opening notes with the strange, discordant sounds that mark a steam punk production.
“The Snow Queen” is a kids' Christmas show, filled with fantasy and fabulous beings. It’s also a show for grownups, with deeper, more complex themes of love and longing and courage. More than anything, “The Snow Queen,” especially in its contemporary, capricious steam-punk guise, is for the child in each of us.
“The Snow Queen” continues through Dec. 31 at 555 Medford Center, across from Tinseltown. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 1:30 p.m. Sundays. For more information, visit ctporegon.org or call 541-779-1055.
— Maureen Flanagan Battistella is a freelance writer in Ashland. She can be reached at email@example.com.