Encore Stage & Studio has been working with local youth “to build lifelong appreciation for live theatre by involving young people in all aspects of theatre arts — onstage, backstage, in the classroom, and in the audience,” as their mission statement states, for over 50 years now. Their most recent production is Disney’s Frozen Jr., with Book by Jennifer Lee and Music and Lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez.
Based on the original Disney film, the show follows the same story of sisters Elsa and Anna, but with minor adjustments to characters and the action for stage and time limitations. The show is a perfect fit for the impending winter and the upcoming release of the movie’s sequel, Frozen 2, in November.
Encore is a learning theatre and most of the cast and crew are school-age kids of varying ages and levels of experience. Managing a group of 54 kids is no small task but Director and Choreographer, Sarah Conrad, and the rest of the Creative Team do an outstanding job utilizing the talent, allowing each child to have a moment to shine in their own way, and overall preparing the students to put on a solid, professional show.
As the story begins, young Elsa (Katie Hearne) and young Anna (Molly Payne) are playing together. They sing “A Little Bit of You” as Elsa uses her powers to make snow and create their icy friend, Olaf. A group of dancers dressed all in white with flowing fabric flit and spin around the stage to mimic snow. But when Anna accidentally gets hurt, the Hidden Folk (which replace the trolls from the movie) are beckoned and come to heal her, taking her memories of the magic and causing Elsa to hide her powers in fear of hurting Anna, or anyone else, again.
As the girls grow up, Anna misses her big sister and tries to reconnect with her, singing “Do You Want to Build a Snowman” through her bedroom door, but Elsa sticks to her “conceal don’t feel” motto, even once their parents are lost at sea.
In “For the First Time in Forever,” grown-up Anna (Carly Ratcliffe) and Elsa (Lucy Rocchio) are preparing for coronation day when the gates to the palace will finally be reopened to the town, and Elsa will become Queen. Elsa’s apprehension of losing control of her powers again plays in sharp contrast to Anna’s unbridled giddiness. Rocchio and Ratcliffe work very well together and portray their characters with a sincerity that amplifies the theme of love, sacrifice, and devotion that is prevalent throughout the story.
Anna meets the charming Prince, Hans (Xander Tilock), and the two sing the hilarious “Love is An Open Door” and decide to get married, but Elsa refuses to approve to the union of her sister to a man she met only hours before. In an argument with Anna over the engagement, Elsa briefly loses her temper, which causes her to reveal her powers.
Elsa runs off as a snowstorm takes over the town and the land freezes over in her wake. Anna goes after her big sister to try to bring her home to fix the cold, but fear is a powerful emotion. And Elsa is reveling in finally being able to be herself and not hide in her magic, singing the popular “Let It Go.”
Most of the songs from the movie are in the score, along with new ones, and Music Director Sarah Markovits deserves a huge shout-out for the impressive harmonies that were strong and beautifully blended in all of the Cast numbers.
There were many special moments in the production and some standout performances that cannot go without mention. When trying to find Elsa, Anna meets her old snowman friend, Olaf, who has been brought to life by Elsa’s magic. Jillian Michelson perfectly plays the charismatic and painfully naïve Olaf, who wants to help bring back summer without understanding the natural relationship between ice and heat. Michelson performs the outrageous “In Summer” and has the whole audience in stitches anytime she walks on-stage.
Kristoff (Kason Daniels) and his reindeer, Sven (Sydney Payne), also make an adorable pair. They sing the cute duet “Reindeer(s) Are Better than People.” Anna meets them as she is searching for her sister and the duo decide to help her find her way.
Brady Knott playing Weselton (wrongfully pronounced as “Weasel Town”) offers some comic relief with his indignity and absurd overconfidence.
More than anything, though, what shines through is the sheer joy present in every aspect of the experience. The material itself focuses on following your heart and living through love, with the two main characters going above and beyond in order to protect the sister they hold so dear. Then there’s the joy of the performers and their obvious love of being on the stage. Finish that off with the audience filled with friends and family, who are there to cheer on the cast and be supportive. It’s a giant love fest that highlights the community aspects of live theater that doesn’t often get mentioned.
Encore Stage & Studio’s production of Frozen Jr. is a delightful experience, showcasing the wonderful work they do with local youth in giving the students all the tools they need to become versatile in the arts world. Go support local theatre and young blooming talent and see these kids work it on-stage. Encouraging young minds is reason enough.
Running Time: One hour and 30 minutes, with one 15-minute intermission.
Youth Cast and Crew: Andress, Charlotte (Snow Chorus, Summer Chorus), Bachrack, Jeb (King Agnarr, Oaken Family), Bartell, Zaria (Snow Chorus, Summer Chorus), Bissett, Lauren (Oaken, Townsperson), Carroll-Gavula, Eilish (Snow Chorus, Summer Chorus), Cassidy, Catherine (Townsperson 1), Daniels, Kason (Kristoff), Dantzker, Charlie (Front of House Crew), Davis, Kylen (Middle Anna, Oaken Family, Hidden Folk Act 2), Dennis, Riley (Backstage Crew), Donnelly, Maggie (Housekeeper, Acorn (Oaken Family Solo), Hidden Folk), Elder, Nyla (Bishop, Hidden Folk), Fitzgerald, Tennyson (Snow Chorus, Summer Chorus), Flannery-Goodman, Josephine (Front of House Crew), Funk, Jordan (Backstage Crew), Gastelum, Bryce (Backstage Crew), Gould, Henry (Townsperson 3), Gradowski, Lindsey (Backstage Crew), Grove, Jagger (Steward, Hidden Folk), Hall, London (Townsperson), Hearne, Katie (Young Elsa, Hidden Folk Act 2), Heavers, Anne (Townsperson), Hegtvedt, Marley (Middle Elsa, Oaken Family, Hidden Folk Act 2), Jackson, Gia (Backstage Crew), Kaufman, Sara (Snow Chorus, Summer Chorus), Kleinberg, Alison (Handmaiden, Hidden Folk), Knott, Brady (Weselton), Kubiak, Fiona (Front of House Crew), Lawler, Meredith (Townsperson 2), Mackall, Katherine (Townsperson 4), McBurney, Ian (Backstage Crew), McBurney, Sarah (Front of House Crew), Meek, Oliver (Backstage Crew), Michelson, Jillian (Olaf), Myers, David (Butler, Hidden Folk), Nelson, Katrina (Bulda), Payne, Molly (Young Anna, Hidden Folk Act 2), Payne , Sydney (Sven), Ramthun, Sebastian (Backstage Crew), Ratcliffe, Carly (Anna), Reynolds, Olivia (Townsperson), Rivera, Carmen (Queen Iduna, Oaken Family), Rocchio, Lucy (Elsa), Rogers, Ryley (Front of House Crew), Ruff, Will (Backstage Crew), Simek, Gabby (Backstage Crew), Tilock, Xander (Hans), Tonsetic, Miranda (Snow Chorus, Summer Chorus), Vadja, Emmie (Pabbie, Cook Emmie), Wear, Elena (Townsperson 5), Whitaker, Caroline (Townsperson), White, Isabella (Backstage Crew), Green, Elena (Backstage Crew)
Conrad, Sarah (Director/Choreographer), Markovitz, Sarah (Music Director), McGee, Patrick (Director in Training), Leonard, Debra (Costume and Make-up Designer), Jepperson, Kristen (Technical Director/Set Designer), Hauptman, Gary (Lighting Director), Curry, Kevin (Sound Consultant), Nell, Amanda (Co-Props/Set Dressing Designer), McLaughlin, Kyla (Production Apprentice, Co-Props/Set Dressing Design), Ploetz, Jack (Stage Manager), Bloss-Baum, Matthew (Student Set Designer)