NORTH EAST — The temperatures outside may not have cooled down, but some local ice princesses are certain to warm anyone’s heart.
Since “Frozen” took the world by ice storm in 2013, it has become a hit Broadway musical and has emerged part of the global zeitgeist. Royal sisters Anna and Elsa have become household names for any family with young children — and even plenty of older Disney fans.
Now, Cecil County audiences will get to see their favorite characters come to life in a local production of “Frozen Jr.” at Cecil College’s Milburn Stone Theatre.
The show will run for just one weekend with four performances: Friday, September 13, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 14, at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Sept. 15, at 2 p.m.
Andrew Mitchell, artistic director at the theatre, warned that tickets are selling out fast with fewer than 300 tickets left for the 1,760 seats that were available for the entire weekend.
According to Mitchell, “Frozen Jr.” is currently MST’s highest-selling, single-weekend production with 1,475 tickets sold as of Thursday afternoon.
Ticket prices are $20 for adults, $18 for military members and seniors (55+), $16 for students and Cecil College staff, $12 for children under 12 years old, and $14 per person for groups of 10 people or more.
Dann Combs, general manager of MST, made his directorial debut with this show. While it is a new experience for him to be on this side of the theater, Combs said the cast made it easy for him to step into the role.
“I can’t express how talented these kids are,” he said. “We’ve run the show probably 12 to 14 times at this point and there’s still points where I get chills, there’s still points where I’m just blown away because every time gets better and better.”
Combs isn’t just a casual fan of Disney; he’s obsessed.
In 2010, he participated in the Disney College program where he worked at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., for a year and “fell in love with it.” Now, he visits several times per year.
But his love for “Frozen” was a little more hard-won.
“Surprisingly, I hated this movie when it came out,” he said. “I went and saw it in the theaters and it was like ‘Eh, it was alright.’”
But when the “Frozen” movie came out on DVD, he gave it a second chance and started singing a different tune. Then, in June 2018, Combs went to see the show on Broadway and fell deeper in love with the production.
“It was just mesmerizing, sitting there with your mouth open most of the show just in awe about all the special effects and stuff,” he said. “I was definitely excited when it became available as a junior production to do because I knew kids would love to participate in a show like this.”
Combs worked as a substitute teacher in the Cecil County Public School system for many years and now serves as the residential life director for Upper Chesapeake Summer School for the Arts, a one-week summer arts program for 7th through 12th grade students in Kent County at Washington College, so he said working with young performers for this production was an easy transition.
“The kids at camp are high-caliber kids, so coming here I was expecting the same high caliber because these kids are very dedicated and they did not disappoint one bit,” he said.
Devon Johnson, choreographer for the production, said the performers listen to the staff’s feedback and use it to improve their performance.
“Kids are better than adults I feel like sometimes because they take things so much better and they really take it to heart,” Johnson said.
Combs said the entire cast is full of talented kids, but he is particularly impressed by the lead actors.
“When Ariana, our Elsa, auditioned, I was running the table that night for auditions,” he said. “She went in to audition and I can’t tell you what song she sang to audition, but we could hear her out in the holding area where we were waiting and everybody went silent and just listened to her finish this huge belting of a note.”
15-year-old Ariana Clark said it took a lot of work to embody Elsa’s character.
“I definitely had to especially put out a lot of emotions for it. It took a lot of practice for it, especially at home,” she said.
Clark’s favorite part of the show is getting to sing “Dangerous to Dream” during the coronation scene.
“It definitely portrays Elsa and her deep thoughts in how she feels,” she said.
Meanwhile, 14-year-old Emily Anderson, who plays Anna, said she enjoyed acting in a scene that depicts the friendship between her character and Olaf the snowman.
“[My favorite part is] definitely the scene where it’s Anna and Olaf in her room and she’s freezing to death,” she said. “It’s more of just seeing another side of Anna that you don’t normally get to see, and more of the moral of the story.”
Unlike Clark, whose character has a more serious personality for most of the show, Anderson said she used upbeat music to get in the zone to play Anna.
“I would have a playlist with a bunch of crazy songs and I would just get pumped up to it and hyper and happy and everything,” she said.
Audiences can expect to see Elsa’s iconic ice dress and Anna’s various costumes, as well as many musical favorites from the movie, including “Let it Go,” “First Time in Forever,” and “Love is an Open Door.” But Combs said the stage version also brings its own special flair with new songs carried over from the Broadway show like “Dangerous to Dream.”
“I think we’ve hit that nice balance of giving the audience some things that they can latch onto that they see from the movie, and then adding in those new elements as well,” he said.
Without the benefit of animated characters and environments, the stage show uses lights and projections to add to the ambience, such as when Elsa uses her ice powers, according to crew member Patrick Yarrington.
Yarrington wears many hats during this production, in which he serves as stage manager, lighting designer, master electrician and projection programmer. While programming the lighting and projections presented an interesting challenge, Yarrington said it ended up being one of his favorite parts of this show.
“I think the most fun I had was programming ‘Let it Go,’” he said. “It took about two hours to fully get through the song and program the lights and projection cues.”
Although the show only runs about 90 minutes, Yarrington said he had to program about 200 cues for projections, lighting, fly elements and other parts of the production to create the “fun Disney magic.”
For Yarrington, his favorite part of the show is when Olaf the snowman sings “In Summer.”
Meanwhile, Johnson said she enjoyed choreographing the dance for the song “Hygge.” Although the song does not appear in the movie, in features Oaken, the owner of Wandering Oaken’s Trading Post and Sauna, and his family as they cheerfully push their big summer blowout sale.
“It’s so fun and energetic and they do a cute kick line at the end,” Johnson said.
Combs encouraged community members to purchase tickets while they last so they can have a chance to see their favorite characters live on MST’s stage.
“One great reason to come see it is just to be able to see those characters from the movie come to life on stage. We have a great production staff who’s put together a really awesome show that I’m very proud to have been asked to be a part of and that I got to stand at the helm for,” he said.