As the end of November draws near, those familiar with Illinois winters are bracing themselves for the inevitable flurry of cold that tends to stick around for a bit (or a lot) longer than it should. Thankfully, the Champaign Park District Youth Theater invites you to have a more enjoyable experience with the cold and snow with its upcoming musical The Snow Queen.
When a magic mirror that distorts good and evil is shattered, its tiny splinters get blown all over the world. A young boy named Kai is afflicted when one shard lodges in his eye, taking away all the beauty he once saw in the world. Another pierces his heart, destroying his ability to love. He is eventually taken by the cruel Snow Queen. Based on the classic fairytale by Hans Christian Andersen, the play ventures into the journey of its heroine Gerda, who is tasked with rescuing her best friend from the Snow Queen’s evil grips.
Below, the performers who play Gerda, Kai, and the Snow Queen (Ella, Wade, and Angelynn, respectively) as well as the show’s director, Patty Dudley, give us a deeper look into the production.
Smile Politely: What made The Snow Queen appealing to you?
Patty Dudley: I wanted a show that is family friendly, but also has a life message to it. Gerda goes on a journey to save her friend Kai, and along the way, she encounters all kinds of characters and obstacles. She learns that with love, you can overcome anything and reach your goals. The timeless appeal of The Snow Queen is that it reminds us of the power of loyalty and love in the face of great obstacles.
SP: What was your favorite part of playing your character?
Wade: My favorite part of playing Kai was that I didn’t have to stay in one character, as he evolves throughout the show.
Angelynn: My favorite part about playing the Snow Queen was the mysteriousness of her character. The previous roles I’ve acted in have had set characteristics that were relatable and human. The Snow Queen doesn’t have definite characteristics. She is a mystical creature who cannot understand what love is. It was so enjoyable to be able to portray the Snow Queen in the way I was able to interpret her. A huge bonus was being able to wear a gorgeous costume!
SP: What was the most challenging part of playing your character?
Ella: The most challenging part was learning all of her lines and the music. I had a lot of music to learn.
W: The most challenging part of playing Kai is that there are two shades to his character. At the beginning he is sweet, but then he becomes sour and mean.
A: The most challenging part of my character was to communicate to the audience that the Snow Queen is a very cold, emotionless creature who cannot feel love, without making her seem boring and monotonous. The music for the show was also very challenging.
SP: What challenges did you face directing the play?
PD: This production was a huge challenge for myself, our choreographer Monica Samii, our music director Nicole Morgan, and our assistant director Leigh Kaiser. The material stretched each one of us in a way that made us grow and be more creative than ever before. We try to put as many tools in the students’ hands to help them learn and develop a love for theatre, and have fun doing so. We have 55 fifth- to eighth-graders performing and we want each of their talents to stand out, which is a challenge. Every performer is crucial to the storytelling.
SP: How would you describe your character in your own words? Do you like him/her?
E: Gerda is independent, strong, and caring. She is very determined to find Kai and won’t let anything get in her way. I like her because she reminds me of myself.
W: Kai is a character that is very friendly, but easily susceptible to evil. I don’t know if I like him, because he is good at being nice, but he is also good at being cruel.
A: My character is enrapturing, stunning, mystical, magical, and definitely evil. She is out there for herself. She can’t feel love, and she doesn’t even understand the meaning of love. If she were a person, I definitely wouldn’t like her, because nobody wants to be friends with someone who can’t feel love.
SP: Do you have more fun playing an antagonist or a protagonist?
E: I really enjoy my part as the protagonist, and most protagonists have similar traits as me. But at the same time, when you’re a villain you really get to develop your character and go crazy with your imagination.
A: Playing an antagonist can be a very interesting journey, because it requires more out-of-the-box thinking to be able to interpret and understand a villain’s choices and motives. The fun part of playing a protagonist would have to be how easily you can relate to your character. Plus, the protagonist usually gets all the catchy songs.
SP: What is your number one reason for why people should come watch The Snow Queen?
W: My number one reason is because it whisks you out of this world and puts you in “The Real Reality”. You’ll get the joke if you come see The Snow Queen.
E: I think people should come see The Snow Queen to see the story come alive. It’s a great story and not everyone has heard of it. When it’s alive on the stage, it’s really awesome.
A: My number one reason is because it’s a very unique musical. The music is so beautiful, and the lyrics can be understood by children, but often has a double meaning that only adults will be able to understand. The actors and actresses have put such an effort into bringing each character to life. All the directors, costume designers, and makeup artists have spent so much time on this show, and it will be pleasing both visually and spiritually to all members of the audience.
SP: What do you want the audience to take away from the performance?
PD: I hope the audience gets the message that no matter what life throw at us, if we persevere and let others carry us when we’re too tired to go on, we can make it through anything. Love is the answer.
The Snow Queen will be playing at The Virginia Theatre (203 W. Park Ave.) from November 19-21. Shows are at 7 p.m. with an additional performance at 2 p.m. on November 21st. Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for ages 12 and under, and free for ages 2 and under. Advance tickets are available at thevirginia.org, the Virginia Theatre box office, or by calling 217-356-9063.