Feb. 22 2017 12:59 AM

LCC brings colorful, child-friendly take on Hans Christian Andersen’s classic tale

To be honest, a child should probably be writing this review. Lansing Community College’s latest production, “The Snow Queen,” is unabashedly meant for children. The adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s classic story, with book and lyrics by Stuart Paterson, will surely enchant most of the 6-to-12-year-old demographic.

The colorfully costumed and talented actors on the Dart Auditorium stage are sure to keep children engaged. Some portrayed humans, while others were animals or magical beings. The cast even involved the audience by encouraging them to shout at the characters. When the comical Scruff the raven (Tyler Frease) asked for everyone to yell “Shut your beak!” at Peck, another raven comically played by Ann Marie Foley, a roar of compliance followed — a roar that was mostly an octave higher than any adult’s voice.

Jason Durr, as Kay (left) and Michelle Danaj, as Gerda, star in LCC’s child-friendly adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen.”
Courtesy Photo

Brandon Townsend, as a menacing King Grin, stepped off the stage and into the front seating area, threatening to “feed the children to the goats.” The defensive, thunderous reply from the children wiped any grin off of Grin’s face as he hurried with mock distress back to the stage.

Once the youngsters in the audience figured out the power of their voices, they did not hesitate to scream directions or taunts to the actors — often without solicitation. Sometimes, a single, excited voice would yell at a villain or warn a heroine. A note to director Paige Tufford: Be careful what you wish for.

Comedic characters like Cobweb, played with finesse by Ian Whipp, and Katie Dufort’s likeable and animated lead robber helped make “The Snow Queen” worth making noise about. Slapstick and silliness by Corey Weston and Tyler Brown, as robbers and polar bears, as well as the heroic actions of Michelle Danaj as Gerda, added to the audience’s howls of amused approval.

A simplistic-yet-epic set also helped keep the audience engaged. Designer Renée Surprenant created a massive painted back curtain, a large snowflake-decorated proscenium and large, folding flats of cutout trees. Sound designers Tufford and Andrew Birchmeier signaled majestic entrances and whipped up mighty wind noises. But it was the costumes designed by Kate Hudson Koskinen that were the most royal additions to “The Snow Queen.”

Ravens’ wings were layered with individual vinyl feathers. Wool, tweeds, furs and ruffles embellished other costumes. Polar bears with massive, fuzzy heads had capes that replicated what real bears look like in profile. There was nothing mundane about any character’s outfits, hairstyles or footwear.

The Snow Queen, played with a sinister charm by Kathryn Willis, was adorned with rich velvet that had a glittery lining. Her crown was a complex collection of jewels and frosted sticks.

Props by Melody Teodoro-Kurtis and Ray Kurtis were also noteworthy. Elegant scepters sometimes lit up. A wheelbarrow was hand made from rough wood. Knives and swords seemed real, and coins in a box shimmered like real gold.

“The Snow Queen” is billed as “a fairytale with music,” with Scottish harpist Savourna Stevenson credited for its music. The play had only a few incidental songs sung a cappella. There were no grand solos or sing-alongs. There was also a noticeable loss of momentum in the second act of the play, which clocked in under two hours, including intermission.

But the show’s intended audience, the children, were very physical in their unconditional appreciation. My seat back was repeatedly kicked from behind or jostled by kids close to me moving around. Nearby shrill screams hurt my ears. If any of that happened on a plane ride, I would have been utterly aggravated. But such an experience during the performance of “The Snow Queen,” however, was a pure delight.

“The Snow Queen”

LCC Theatre Program
7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 24; 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25-Sunday, Feb. 26
$15/$10 seniors, staff and alumni/$5 children and students
Dart Auditorium
500 N. Capitol Ave., Lansing
(517) 483-1488, lcc.edu/showinfo