The Snow Queen Brings her Shivering Ways to Canyon Theatre Guild
Living in Los Angeles, people will often assume that all of the celebrity sightings and Hollywood shenanigans go down in, well, Hollywood. That’s not always the case. Sure, Hollywood is home to the stars but did you know several studios and filming sets are in my backyard of the San Fernando Valley? Or that beloved shows like Parks and Recreation filmed in Pasadena? While I have known these facts for quite some time, I was floored to discover that I am forgetting about another home to the glamorous life of entertainment: Santa Clarita Valley.
Gilmore Girls, Sons of Anarchy and House are just a few hit shows that were filmed there. While movies like Bridesmaids and one of my favorites, Little Miss Sunshine, were also moments for the valley to shine.
In the un-assuming Newhall, I had never really taken note of their “Western Walk of Fame” or Main Street. Turns out, all western buffs should flock to this humble suburb to get their photos with the stars along Main Street. All of your favorites are there. From John Wayne to Little House on the Prarie’s Melissa Gilbert!
While I was already feeling quite sold on Newhall, our reason for visiting sealed the deal. We were out among the western stars for our first visit to the Canyon Theatre Guild to see their current production of the Snow Queen.
Walking into a lively and abundant lobby, several of the Snow Queen’s supporting cast were on hand and in character to assist you to your seat or offer you a program. I struck up quite the bloody ol’ chat with the 1st and 2nd soldiers (Maddie Thompson and Paige Noltemeyer) who were unfamiliar with what a “Super Bowl” was. Witnessing such on point dialect and impressive improvisational skills even before it began, showed us we were in for a great production.
The Snow Queen is based on the beloved fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson. There’s also some pretty interesting history about Walt Disney’s love for the story and how the corporation had an ongoing outline to produce their own version. At several times, cast and crew were selected. Yet, it never seemed to come to fruition. That is until 2011 when it was brought back to the drawing board and it looked like we would finally get a Disney film based on the Snow Queen. The next hiccup? Their songwriting team wrote a little ditty entitled Let it Go and the powers that be felt a villain should not sing such a beautiful, empowering song.
Thus, Frozen was born. And Queen Elsa was not a villain. I admit, I thought the Snow Queen would be similar to Frozen. Instead, I was introduced to an endearing, heartfelt story about believing in yourself and the power of friends.
The play, adapted by British playwright, Ron Nicol, begins with a group of young trolls who’ve gathered to hear the story of the Snow Queen, told by the Old Troll (John Morris). We’re then introduced to best friends, Kai (Gabija Zukauskas) and Gerda (Samantha Bailey). As they admire the snow coming down, they call over Kai’s grandmother (Jane Arnett) to enjoy it with them. The snowflakes bring to mind fluttering bees. The kids ask if there’s a Queen for the snowflakes, like a Queen Bee. Grandmother explains to them that there is the Snow Queen.
High above the hills and in the mountains, lays the Snow Queen (Sarah Tyler). She has the power to turn you heart to ice and make you cold-hearted, just as she long has been. While the children and grandmother cannot see her, she appears and blows ice into young Kai’s eye. Therefore, making him sad and angry. He no longer wants to play with Gerda. The Queen soon reveals herself to Kai and invites him to join her at her ice castle. She goes with him and it’s presumed Kai drowned. Gerda knows in her heart this is not true and sets off to find him.
Bringing to mind Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz, we set off with Gerda on a fun and zany adventure to find Kai. From a hilarious wild crow (Cole Carter) to a very clever princess (Julie Raelyn), Gerda meets countless of characters along the way to find Kai and learns that she can get by with a little help from her friends.
As the title role, Tyler lives up to her name. As the ice-cold Snow Queen, she embraces the character fiercely yet reveals layers to the character as we go. While she is intimidating, she balances that without getting too scary for younger audience members. As Kai, Zukauskas delivers a delicate performance whilst under the Queen’s spell. He’s moody and cranky but you can tell that in his heart, he is still a caring and loving child.
Samantha Bailey as our heroine, Gerda, brings to mind a bit of Frozen’s Anna. She will stop at nothing to find her best friend. I know I would have loved her in the role when I was a child. Cole Carter and Heidi Parker shine as Wild Crow and Tame Crow, respectively. Living in the princesses garden, there is never a dull moment once Gerda meets Wild Crow. I loved the Dorothy and Scarecrow-like dynamic between these two fast friends.
The audience, young and old, will love the clever antics of the princess (Julie Raelyn) and the prince (Marlon Flores). Among the anticipation and fear of at last finding the Snow Queen, there are so many moments that will make you laugh.
Making his debut as Director for a main stage seasonal show at Canyon Theatre Guild, John Lucewich has clearly brought forth a terrific cast. They are not afraid to give their role their all while revealing layers to the character as the show progresses. It’s a wonderful play about never giving up and the power of friendship. Perfect for the entire family–or, even a date like for Mike and me!
The Snow Queen will run through February 25th with performances each weekend. Learn more about the show and Canyon Theatre Guild HERE.
(*Disclosure: I was invited to review the Snow Queen on behalf of this review. All opinions are my own. Photos: Courtesy of the Canyon Theatre Guild.)