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Just over yonder, high on a mountainous peak, an icy wind scolds and snowflakes menace. Winter’s approach is threatening, and just as the old adage proclaims, the cold can indeed be bitter (in more ways than one). Fortunately for theatergoers, Triad Stage combats the chill with warmth and enchantment in the fancifully re-imagined production of Snow Queen.
The fifth collaborative effort of Founding Artistic Director Preston Lane and local singer/songwriter Laurelyn Dossett, Snow Queen continues to reflect a synced understanding of innovative theatre and cultural heritage. As a signature of the creative duo, this adaptation beats with a distinctively Southern pulse. Set deep in the Appalachian Mountains, Lane's lyrical text curls and drawls in a dance with Dossett's original bluegrass folk music.
Inspired by the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale, the story chronicles a young girl, Gertie, on a courageous quest to rescue her beloved friend Cade from the vengeful Snow Queen. However, her journey is not without cumbersome predicaments and magical characters that challenge her will and determination. Yet, Gertie, armed with unyielding love and a song that is true, defeats the dark winter, freeing the young boy.
The emotional effectiveness of the production weighs greatly on child actors Autumn Routt and Nick Saunders, who more than rose to the occasion. Routt was especially captivating as the unlikely hero, navigating every scene with maturity. The five ensemble members (Scott Pattison, Amy Hamel, Cinny Strickland, Ben Apple, and Dori Legg) have their hands full tackling collectively over 20 different characters throughout the piece. Yet the actors transitioned seamlessly with roles that vary from human forms to animalistic creatures and aspects of nature.
Emily Gardner Hall as the villainous Snow Queen was often breathtaking as she commanded the stage with a regal presence. Hall’s voice fit perfectly with the Dossett’s compositions and was particularly lovely in the number “The Winter of Ten Thousand Years.” However, it was Gayton Scott’s portrayal of the Story Weaver that anchored and directed the production. Scott serves as the key narrator, therefore all happenings in the play stand on the foundation of her performance. It is through Scott that the sheer beauty of Lane’s text was showcased and honored.
To say that the production is visually stunning, in many ways, is an understatement. The labyrinth world of fantasy that shrouds the theatre is evident in every minute detail of scenic designer Howard C. Jones and Lighting Designer Laura J. Eckelman. The tiered wooden plank stage that devours the three-quarter thrust makes way for moving compartments that slide in and out, or that ascend and descend from the stage itself. The combination of ethereal lighting cascading frosty hues, billowing fog, and gently falling artificial snow paint a majestic wintery backdrop. Bill Brewer’s elaborate costume design spotlights his creative dexterity. From extravagant headdresses and long sequenced robes to hooded ghouls and haggard witches, Brewer captures the whimsical attire of the fantasy world.
What makes this production exceptional is the blended use of multiple story telling devises. Along with traditional oral story telling that requires vocal acrobats and grand expressions, Lane incorporates the use of puppetry. The ensemble manipulates large mechanical animals with characterized voices and a full array of movements. Even the music, with the band on stage hidden behind a screen, provides a specific commentary with its fiddle and banjo sound, informing of geographic location and time. All of the elements work together to create a full-bodied theatrical experience.
Triad Stage, a proven source for rich, original theatre, scores with this epic wintery hit!
Snow Queen continues through Sunday, December 22. For more details on this production, please view the sidebar.