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'The Snow Queen' is a symphony of movement

“The Snow Queen,” which opened at the Collaborative Theatre Project last week, is a gorgeous symphony of movement, music and voice.

The play is a simple story filled with love, danger, hope and determination as a young girl takes on a world of magic to find her friend.

Kai is cursed by the Troll’s splintered mirror, and when kissed by the Snow Queen is hypnotized by her icy beauty and the impossible puzzle she offers. Gerda won’t give up her quest to find Kai despite setbacks and enchantment, risking her very being in the journey.

Based on an 1844 story by Hans Christian Anderson, “The Snow Queen” has been produced countless times over the years and in many media. CTP’s pop-rock adaption was first produced in 2013, bringing a contemporary spin to the work, enhanced by new music in this performance by Rick Lombardo.

Joey Larimer and Jazmine Mathias perform as Kai and Gerda. Larimer is solid and clearly deconstructs as the show progresses. Mathias, a late cast in “The Snow Queen,” delivers a layered, complex and sensitive performance that transforms the production into a magical experience. Both Larimer and Mathias demonstrate the narrative arc of the story, Mathias growing in strength and maturity as Gerda and Larimer become weaker and more crazed as Kai is ever more spellbound by the Snow Queen.

C.J. Reid was a standout in CTP’s 2017 “The Snow Queen” production, playing a number of ensemble roles and is well cast this year as the Snow Queen. Reid’s performance shows humanity and emotion even in the icy depths of her kingdom. Her costume — new this year — shows beading, lace and sequins. Brilliant with the fire of ice, it contrasts perfectly with the steam punk goggles, leathers and zippers of the ensemble.

The ensemble numbers nine actors: Aaron Carter, Shannon Carter, Trisha Dunn, Trevor Pekas, Julius Pratt, Jessi Shieman, Zac Wentworth, Ella Rose Schaefer and Sean Warren. Pekas is a most menacing Troll, fully decked out in steam punk grunge that mirrors the machine fronting of the stage. Wentworth and Carter are a hilarious pair of white doves in the castle scene, chattering away and squawking in alarm or agreement. Schaefer is a standout, returning to this year’s CTP in the ensemble as a graceful (and also belligerent) Rose, an appropriate casting given her tall, slender frame. Sean Warren is a wonderful WWI flying crow, later a stumping reindeer — both roles he carries with a large physicality and warm heart.

Projection and scenic designers Luis Garcia and Nicholas Hewitt have outdone themselves in this season’s production of “The Snow Queen.” Garcia’s projections are subtle snowflakes and moon glow that add to the magic. There’s a narrow raised stage against the back of the set with several levels that make it easy to see the action from anywhere in the theater, and the layout leaves most of the stage wide open for the amazing choreography developed by Daniel Sessions Stephens and Joey Larimer. Movements are fluid and balletic, posed and poised as the ensemble gathers and fills the stage with gentle beauty. The river scene is graceful and poetic as silks shape the waves that steal Gerda’s shoes and bring her to the charmed garden.

Sue Rasmussen’s landscape and pictorial quilts are among those that hang in the lobby of the theater. Rasmussen’s work is also a part of “The Snow Queen” production, giant stuffed bird-beings that float above the set as the ensemble’s bird hats and feathers float about the stage in song.

“The Snow Queen,” directed by Susan Aversa-Orrego, continues at CTP, 555 Medford Center, through Dec. 29. For more information and tickets, see CTPMedford.com or call the box office at 541-779-1055.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Maureen Flanagan Battistella at mbattistellaor@gmail.com.

Mike Kunkel photo The ensemble features Aaron Carter, Zaq Wentworth, Ella Rose Schaefer, Shannon Carter, Julius Pratt and Jessi Shieman