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Regional Reviews: Boston

The Snow Queen
New Repertory Theatre
Review by Nancy Grossman

Aimee Doherty
Photo by Andrew Brilliant/Brilliant Pictures
New Repertory Theatre takes a journey to the icy north for its holiday offering, the New England premiere of The Snow Queen, a pop/rock musical interpretation of Hans Christian Andersen's classic tale co-authored by former New Rep Artistic Director Rick Lombardo, Kirsten Brandt, and Haddon Kime. The ambitious undertaking follows the quest of the young heroine Gerda who seeks to rescue her childhood friend Kai from the clutches of the title character, learning many lessons about herself and the world along the way. The wholesome themes make the play accessible to all but the youngest ages, and, like Frozen, the Disney movie based on the same source material, it has a strong element of female empowerment.

Gerda (spunky Victoria Britt) and the Snow Queen (Aimee Doherty) square off for the heart and soul of Kai (brooding Nick Sulfaro) after he falls under a magic spell. Undaunted by the challenges she must face along the way, the girl gathers support from a menagerie of fantastical characters as she navigates a river crossing, outsmarts a witch, and survives her trek across a frozen tundra to reach him. In the meantime, the boy is smitten with his captor, wanting only to please her by solving the riddle of eternity. The Snow Queen has a habit of kidnapping children because their innocent worldview allows them to see things in a different light than adults, and she entices Kai's loyalty by kissing him. She is also a prisoner of her icebound world and garners a modicum of sympathy, helped by Doherty's vulnerability, but she tiptoes along the edge of perversity.

Most of the cast members play multiple roles and differentiate them well. Comic relief comes from the likes of Maureen Keiller and Maurice Emmanuel Parent. She plays the caring Grandmother, the needy Garden Witch, the nasty Robber Girl's Mother, and the wise Woman of the North. Parent is full of himself as a narcissus in the witch's garden and dignified as the Reindeer who carries Gerda to the ice palace. However, it is his iteration of Old Crow that is a master class for any actor attempting to play another species. His movements and vocalizations are well studied, and he infuses the bird with appropriate human qualities. Jackie Theoharis is wild as the Robber Girl, getting in touch with her inner punk rocker, and Din A. Griffin boasts a silky voice to go along with some smooth moves as the anthropomorphic River. Kirsten Sapling (Rose) and Nicole Vander Laan (Pigeon, Tiger Lily) complete the dynamic ensemble.

The Snow Queen has an abundance of musical numbers (more than two dozen), most by Kime, but with additional music by Lombardo and lyrics by Brandt, Kime, and Lombardo. Musical direction is by Emily Intersimone, who also plays keyboard and leads four on-stage musicians. The cast features rich vocals and all are capable of belting out the pop/rock genre, but there are not many memorable songs and it may be the case that less would be more. The book (Brandt, Lombardo) adheres closely to Andersen's story and the music serves to flesh it out, even sending it soaring a couple of times, but it is carrying too much baggage to remain airborne.

The steampunk look of the show is impressive, with scenic design by Ryan Bates, often eerie lighting by Franklin Meissner, Jr., projection design by Garrett Herzig, and costumes by Frances Nelson McSherry. In addition to his creative oversight, Lombardo directed, choreographed, and designed the sound. Whew! It should be noted that Kelli Edwards served as associate choreographer, and both Lombardo and Kime created the original sound design. The musical had its world premiere at San Jose Repertory Theatre in 2013 and was later invited to present at the New York Musical Theatre Festival where it won both the Best Overall Production Award and the Festival Publishing Award. As with any new, original musical, it has seen a plethora of revisions and will, presumably, continue to evolve. In its current state, The Snow Queen left me cold.

The Snow Queen, performances through December 20, 2015, at New Repertory Theatre, 321 Arsenal Street, Watertown, MA; Box Office 617-923-8487 or

Book by Kirsten Brandt and Rick Lombardo, Music by Haddon Kime, Lyrics by Kirsten Brandt, Haddon Kime and Rick Lombardo, Additional Music by Rick Lombardo, Directed and Choreographed by Rick Lombardo, Musical Direction by Emily Intersimone; Scenic Designer, Ryan Bates; Costume Designer, Frances Nelson McSherry; Lighting Designer, Franklin Meissner, Jr.; Sound Designer, Rick Lombardo; Projection Designer, Garrett Herzog; Original Sound Design, Rick Lombardo and Haddon Kime; Associate Choreographer, Kelli Edwards; Stage Manager, Anna Burnham; Assistant Stage Manager, Leslie Sears

Cast (in alphabetical order): Victoria Britt, Aimee Doherty, Din A. Griffin, Maureen Keiller, Maurice Emmanuel Parent, Kirsten Salpini, Nick Sulfaro, Jackie Theoharis, Nicole Vander Laan

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