Arts & Culture

‘Snow Queen’ enchants with Arctic paradise

Directed by Evan Silver ’16, the musical follows two friends’ battle with the Snow Queen

By
Senior Staff Writer
Friday, December 6, 2013

Loss of innocence has been explored by writers from John Milton to Kurt Vonnegut, who famously wrote, “Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt. So it goes.”

But innocence need not be gone forever — at least, according to “The Snow Queen,” a folk musical adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s classic fairytale.

Written by singer-songwriter Michael Peter Smith and directed by Evan Silver ’16, the warmth of the play triumphs over its wintery setting as paradise lost becomes paradise regained.

The production opens portraying the inseparable friends Gerda and Kai as they romp through the rosy realms of their childhood, before the fleeting Danish summertime yields to the encroaching change of winter. Despite his grandmother’s warning of the bewitching powers of the Snow Queen, whose mirror of ice reflects the evil and conceals the good of the world, Kai falls victim to her cold beauty. With one shard of the mirror’s glass in his eye and another in his heart, Kai leaves his best friend behind and flies away with the Snow Queen to her Nordic castle.

Resolving to find her companion, Gerda embarks on a rescue mission into the Arctic Circle. Though her quest is fraught with danger and uncertainty, she is aided by the colorful characters she encounters along the way. From vagabonds to royalty to various members of the animal kingdom, these personalities are moved by her plight.

The play feels like the illustrations of a picture book brought to life, largely due to much of the narrative arc unfolding through the omnipresent Storyteller, played by Annie Kocher ’14. Kocher’s angelic soprano gently urges the action along with sweetly sung maternal guidance that transports the audience back to a simpler time.

But because the play is primarily driven by character rather than plot, the dramatic tension between good and evil can be underwhelming and somewhat sugarcoated. Ursula Raasted’s ’14 icy rendition of the Snow Queen is well-done but all too brief, especially considering she plays the title character. Without a reprise of her performance, the play’s amplified good and minimized evil presents an interesting reversal of the image found in the Snow Queen’s mirror but is not entirely true to life.

Becca Millstein ’16 nails her performance as Gerda, endearing herself to the audience from the moment she first bounds onstage in a bright burst of energy. Her voice conveys the buoyancy and resilience of youth — not only can she carry a tune even when hauled up and lurched around on a chair, but she also makes doing so look effortless. In her moments portraying the doubt and despair that creep into Gerda’s determined front, Millstein is at her most powerful, her voice velvety and undulating with the consistent vibrato of raw talent.

Simon Henriques ’15 brings a unique comedic flair to each of his multiple roles — the most memorable of which include a member of an impish Wooden Soldier duo and a Lapp Woman with an affinity for fish that borders on fetishism — with each performance more shamelessly absurd than the last.

Despite the limited production space, Silver makes the most of the trio of friendly ravens accompanying Gerda through the first legs of her journey. They serve as helpful human props, representing Gerda’s physical transportation by embodying the dynamism of a river or galloping horse.

The live band accompaniment, directed by Marty Strauss ’16, propels the timeworn fairytale to a relatable, contemporary context. The powerful expression of violinist Ryan Segur ’17 evokes an acoustic nostalgia in contrast to the primarily electric ensemble, creating a bridge with the past and grounding the story in its traditional origins.

Ultimately, “The Snow Queen” allows the audience to re-enter the realm of once upon a time, where everything is beautiful and nothing hurts — except for the biting Arctic wind, of course.

The show opens tonight in the Downspace of the Production Workshop at 8 p.m. It will also run Saturday at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. and Sunday through Tuesday at 8 p.m. Admission is free.

  • SNOW KING

    Yeah!

  • Bryant A. Estrada

    so we know who is on the right of that picture. how about the left?

    Racism at its finest.

    #BDHisracist

    • Bryant A. Estrada

      wait. I don’t even think she was mentioned in the article… ugh. #WTFBDH

    • ’16

      So what’s going on in this caption?

      http://www.browndailyherald.com/2010/02/12/curtain-rises-on-pws-thrilling-wait-until-dark/

      Or this one?

      http://www.browndailyherald.com/2010/03/05/fatal-attraction-danger-and-desire-in-lulu/

      Look at any caption in any BDH performance review or even any article in general. It’s pretty clear that the BDH doesn’t use captions to specifically describe the contents of the picture; it’s usually just some kind of general statement. I can’t say for sure why they do this, but it’s consistent through all of their articles. There was certainly no racist editor deciding that in this specific instance one of the people in the picture wouldn’t be identified.

      • Student

        Shh, they can’t work themselves up into a self-serving frenzy if we use logic.

    • Maria E. Orbay-Cerrato

      Im pretty 100% sure writers on BDH arent the ones who take pictures or write the captions. You do realize the reason she isn’t mentioned in the article either is because she’s a minor character and the author focused on major characters/people with multiple roles. There are a lot of minor characters she didn’t mention who were all talented people. How would it be productive for the author to single out and praise one because of her race? Also, saying that this is racism at its finest is really belittling to the actual struggles and social marginalizing people go through every day.

  • SD

    Hassani Scott ’17 is fabulous in this play and it would have been nice for her to be recognized, especially considering the underrepresentation of students of color in theater at Brown. PLEASE tell me how you’re making reparations for your continuing history of racism. #BDHisracist

    • Bryant A. Estrada

      preach.

    • Seriously?

      So you’re saying that while writing play reviews, BDH writers are supposed to actively keep in mind their paper’s alleged history of racism, and make reparations for that by going out of their way to praise the black performers? That seems pretty tokenizing and unreasonable, don’t you think?

  • angryPoC

    Really, BDH? Really? And then you wonder why PoC despise y’all so much

  • KC

    Do better, BDH.

  • DivestBDH

    The BDH was NEVER here for PoC. #divestBDH

    • DivestBDH

      Sincerely,
      JJ

  • UnsurprisedPOC

    Really girl? This is your review?

  • UpsetPOC

    Who’s the other person in that picture?
    I’d love to know!
    Pretty poor captioning if you ask me…
    Do you know how captions work?
    Do you see the member of the cast who was phenomenal on stage in that picture you took?

    • UpsetPOC

      (Becca was also phenomenal! but like. so was Hassani Scott.)
      Let’s give them both names please.

    • POCupsetatshoo

      that is how captioning works on all BDH articles REGARDLESS of race. The person mentioned in the article is captioned, no one else. I’m not saying thats good. But dont make this about race.

  • Ragnar

    And then we ask ourselves why the BDH Editorial Board being all white might be a problem. Huh. How can we actively change the journalism of the BDH to be more sensitive to issues of race, gender, class, sexuality, nationality, and ability? Because it’s clearly failing – even though this is only one of the many erasures of PoC and minorities. Other publications are already doing it BDH, so STEP UP YR GAME !

  • FAF

    BDH could’ve at least mentioned the other girl’s name in the photo. Newspapers do that all the time.
    #shame

    • Michael Smith

      I’m so silly. I saw “most commented on” and
      i thought all the discussion was going to b about how good the music was…the sighing composer

      • EnjoyedTheShow

        The music was fantastic. Thank you and all the performers.

  • #LOLTHISISRIDICULOUS

    this is simply not about race…