BWW Reviews: SNOW QUEEN One of A Kind

"No two snowflakes are alike."

Not a typical Broadway musical, San Jose Repertory Theatre's world premiere of "The Snow Queen" is a unique experience. The Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale does not lend itself naturally to stage. Without its country-twanged score, San Jose's production could pass as a mere children's play. But the final product proves itself so much more. Although it takes time for the characters to pull their audience into the journey, the production's multitalented cast, raw sound and layered themes make it a musical to discuss and digest well after the ensemble bows.

The tale follows innocent Gerda on her quest to save her friend, Kai, from the Snow Queen. The Snow Queen searches for an answer to the riddle of eternity, and believes young Kai may hold the answer. Pieces of an evil magical mirror have lodged themselves in his eye and his heart, keeping Kai alive in the queen's palace, but causing him to reject the world around him for the queen's perfect, icy wonder.

The Rep's version removes most of Anderson's more traditional Christian elements, but keeps the heart of his story alive, emphasizing the power of love in a new and quick, but pointed finale that fits the chapter-by-chapter feel of the musical.

Frances Nelson McSherry's gorgeous costumes combine small modern touches with period looks, igniting imagination. Kristen Brandt, Rick Lombardo and Haddon Kime's songs reflect the wonder and majesty of the cold with an eclectic band made up of everything from chimes to violin to electric guitar. Multiple cast members join the group throughout the production, including Jane Pfitsch (the Snow Queen) on a haunting violin. The music, itself, ranges from gorgeous ballads to hard rock, with one out-of-place second-act number leaving audience members either shocked and aghast or chuckling in surprise. A few numbers don't last long enough to call themselves actual songs, especially in the first act. However, the musical numbers that do last always strike a place in the mind. Of course, the down side with new musicals like "Snow Queen" is that they never have a soundtrack listeners can immediately go out and buy.

Led by standouts Rhett George (the Troll), Tim Homsley (Kai), Lee Ann Payne (Witch) and Eryn Murman (Gerda), an energetic cast soars to new heights with ethereal high notes and memorable ballads. No two snowflakes are alike, and "Snow Queen" possesses the intricacies and beauty of one such flurry.

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From This Author Harmony Wheeler

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