From Olaf, likely the most famous snowman since Frosty, to sisters with a steadfast bond and one with magic powers, “Frozen JR.” is sure to delight Disney fans.
Anna, Elsa and the land of Arendelle are set to come to life in the ACTS Eighth Grade production of Disney’s “Frozen JR.” in the Brewer Middle School cafetorium at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
These annual school productions are a big deal at the Greenwood School District 50 arts, communication and theater magnet program at Brewer Middle School.
“This year’s show was announced on our very first day of eighth grade,” said Desiree Morales, 13, who portrays young Anna and is also double-cast in an ensemble, along with fellow cast member Claire Hudson, 13, who plays young Elsa. “They made a slide show with pictures of us from fifth and sixth grade and at the end, they told us we were going to do ‘Frozen.’ We were all screaming and they brought out snow machines to present it.”
Then, came a couple of weeks to prepare for auditions, which included learning the musical number “Fixer Upper” from the show.
“We had to learn the music and the dance for that song and we had to audition,” said Zacharius Wilson-Payne, 12, who has the role of Oaken.
Morales said friends of hers knew she could dance, but auditions were her first time singing solo in front of a crowd.
This youth production includes memorable songs from the 2013 animated film, including “Let It Go,” but it also includes new songs written for when the show was on Broadway.
And, just in case you want even more “Frozen” fun, Disney’s “Frozen II” film opens in theaters Friday, too.
“They are exciting and fun,” Hudson said of the songs in the theatrical version that are not in the original movie.
Instead of rock trolls as seen in the first animated film, the stage show has “hidden folk.”
Incorporating the magic of Disney animated movies into a live stage production for middle school performers is no easy task, but Hudson said ACTS teachers are really stepping up with this show. Teachers are also designing costumes and set pieces.
Among ACTS faculty helping with the show are Ansley Keenan, who teaches drama; Amy Fennell, who teaches voice; Sheri Brewington, who teaches dance; and Julia McClanahan, who teaches visual arts.
“They are using a screen that has an animated background, which really helps since there are a lot of scene changes, and they are having dancers personify snow, which is really cool,” Hudson said. “They’ve done a great job teaching us how to be more animated on stage.
“Teachers have also done a great job coordinating Elsa’s costume change in the middle of the song, “Let It Go”. It’s so cool.”
The show is directed by Keenan.
“It’s fun because we cannot wait to see how excited the audience is going to be,” Keenan said. “We have been very ambitious with this show. In addition to acting in this show, students are also making the running of this show happen. They are helping with set changes, opening the curtain and the lights.”
Rehearsals started in September and now, the 68-member class is just days away from its first curtain call.
“As a character, I would say Elsa is very reserved and very responsible,” Hudson said. “She kind of does exactly what she is supposed to.”
On the flip side, Morales describes Anna as the more outgoing of the two and “the trouble-maker.”
Wilson-Payne said even though his character runs a trading post, Oaken is goofy, happy and “a little out there.” Plus, in the theatrical version, Oaken has his own musical number.
“We’ve worked so hard, and for so long on this that I’m really excited just to get it out there and perform,” Hudson said, noting she and Wilson-Payne have also done community theater.
Wilson-Payne is also in the cast of “Madeline’s Christmas” at Greenwood Community Theatre this December.
Morales said the storyline of Disney’s “Frozen JR.” centers on the idea that the love of family is one of the strongest loves there is, but the story also shows that “you do not need a man to save you.”
Hudson said another big message is that “being different is OK.”
“Elsa is not ‘normal’ because of her magical powers,” Wilson-Payne explained. “She’s outcast and then later accepted.”