GILFORD – The Gilford Middle School players broke an attendance record while bringing memories to life during their production of “Frozen Jr.”
It was the first time the stage show has been presented in New Hampshire.
In November of 2013, the motion picture “Frozen” was released with expectations of mild success. An animated fantasy, it was based on Hans Christian Anderson’s Snow Queen and became beloved throughout the world.
The public reception was immense, with seemingly every child in a certain demographic a fan. In particular, they knew every word to the featured song “Let It Go.”
Elsa and Anna were back, this time continuing on stage. “We were proud to be the first to present this musical,” said Matt Demko, music director at GMS. “It broke box-office records, there were more than 1,600 in the audience over four performances.”
The kingdom of Arundelle was still the home of many, including the townspeople, snow chorus and the Hidden Folk and each had their role in the story.
At the beginning of the GMS show, princess sisters Anna and Elsa, who have magic powers, are best friends and collaborate on making a snowman named Olaf. Then Elsa loses control of her powers, severely injuring her sister and causing great consternation and leading to her self-exile.
Swirling throughout the story was a large cast which, at various times, found itself on the beach, in the middle of icy mountains, or in the forest. There was familiar music throughout, including the likes of “Reindeer(s) Are Better Than People”, and some very spirited dancing choreographed by Heidi Noyes Bourgeois.
Because of the large number of talented, experienced performers, there were two casts with a Little, Middle and Big Elsa and Anna for each role – and more than 70 young thespians took part.
Sydney Eastman played Little Elsa. She was one of several young Gilford students to travel to a New York City Broadway Jr. theatre training last summer. She credits the experience as an assist to her capturing that role. “I really like playing different roles,” said Eastman 13, “I like creating a character and turning into it.”
Brenna O’Connor played a key role in the show as Olaf, the snowman created by Elsa and Anna who becomes a live character. O’Connor bounced through “Frozen Jr.” showing broad talent and compassion for her fellow characters. O’Connor also attended the NYC school and hopes that “stage and performing will always be part of my life.”
Other parts were played by Abby Kenyon as Sven the Donkey, Savannah Newman as Bulda the Troll Queen, and Harry Jenkins, a 12-year-old 6th grader who plays Oaken, a man who enjoys life in the woods. Demko said the entire cast “stepped up.”
The scenery, whether town, mountains or beach or woods was striking and very realistic. It is the product of Aaron Witham, a longtime Gilford specialist at stage and scenery. “I want the magic to be present,” Witham said.
The Frozen technical director, Scott Piddington, had plenty of help from middle and high school students. Piddington said his role is that of mentor. “I help them so that they can accomplish things and make it happen the right way,” said Piddington, who has 40 years in his specialty.
Karen Madon’s daughter Kendall played little Anna. “I love watching all the kids work so hard,” she said, “Mr. Demko does such a great job setting the bar high for them creating a strong bunch of performers.”
Choreographer Bourgeois’ 10-year-old daughter Anya was a young member of the Snow Chorus and enjoyed her time on the show. The cast concludes with the well known “Let It Go.”
“The audience liked the happy ending,” Anya said.