Heartwarming Holiday with Frozen Jr.

by Constance Howard

Wondering how to boost your holiday spirit? Well look no further than the Lincoln Community Playhouse! Go enjoy a large dose of enthusiasm, fun, good storytelling and talent.

I, unlike most of the free world, had never actually seen Frozen prior to this production. I was, of course, familiar with the plot of the story and the iconic music. However, I somehow missed seeing the movie amongst the plethora of Disney classics. Happily, it is easy to report that the wait was well worth it.

The Lincoln Community Playhouse has a long history of heartwarming, well thought out, talent-filled productions. Frozen Jr. is no exception.

The tone is set from the minute you walk into the theater. Friendly, helpful, organized staff members and volunteers are there to greet you, answering questions the minute you enter building. Thematic decorations dot the lobby, immediately preparing you to enter a world with ice and snow without being overblown. Once seated, I eagerly awaited the opening.

From the start, with the music swelling and bursts of color, we the audience were granted a treat to our senses. Lavish costumes, beautiful harmonies and energetic, engaging performances from everyone who came onstage were instantly the norm. 

The large ensemble filled the space with an enthusiasm and flow often considered to be reserved for professional productions. Great use of space was evident in the seamless transition of characters, staging of numbers and the brilliant use of minimalistic but lush scenery. Each piece, each scene, each musical number transported you to a new moment in time. And the talent…amazing!

Young Anna – played by Livia King and Young Elsa – played by Lumi Kim (both making their Playhouse debuts) dispense love and laughter in equal measure.  Their childhood antics make you want to sing and play along. When you add in Queen Iduna – played by Rahel Teklu and King Agnarr – played by Mason Farmer, you get a strong family unit that you hope stays happy despite knowing that trouble looms ahead.

When an accident happens and then tragedy strikes, it is hard not to feel for the sisters; beautifully played by Melanie Wiggins (Middle Anna) and Kadie Ecklund (Middle Elsa). I eagerly awaited the next incarnation of both girls. I was not disappointed.

Jocelyn Tisdale (Anna) and Vivian Ostrander (Elsa) showed great showmanship and stage presence from the get go. Jocelyn (in her Playhouse debut) was extremely expressive and gave a strong performance as the energetic, bubbly, awkward little sister eager to spread her wings. Vivian (also a talented local artist) was the perfect foil, easily conveying the anxiety and worry about interacting with the social world and her sister. Both channeled sibling love with all of its pitfalls with ease while singing their hearts out.

Although the story revolves primarily around two sisters, the additional cast of characters fleshed out each scene while adding a richness to the storytelling. 

Evan Volkmer (Hans) and Forrest Warmstad-Evans (Weselton) gave performances filled with a sense of the ridiculous and pomp often associated with royal court behavior. Their respective and inclusive scenes pulled the audience into the moment, often inducing laughter and head shaking in equal measure. 

Jack Welstead (Kristoff) and Ryan Ostrander (Sven), very believable in their roles, displayed great chemistry as besties while providing consistent comic relief. Their main musical number “Reindeers Are Better Than People” had everyone laughing and commiserating along.

Each successive introduction of characters makes you want to know them better. Whether it be…

 The Household Staff: Kimball McClure (Housekeeper), Jeremiah Keele (Butler), Allie Works (Handmaiden), Vincent Taddeucci (Cook), and Landon Koepke (Steward

The Officiates: Zach Stevens (Oaken/Court Person) and Sam Maser (Bishop)

The Townspeople: Lucy Cogan, Mary Frances Thompson, James Daily, Willa Gardner, and Madison Johnson 

(or)

The Oaken Family/Fixer Uppers: Keegan Brester (Pabbie), Maeve Glenn-Hash (Bulda), Oliver Daily, Brady Durban, Jack Hansen, Chloe Heaton, Claire Holle, ClaraAnn Kirkendall, Esther Robinson, Layne Swain, and Lyra Walsh

… every cast member strengthened and enlivened each moment.

As for scene stealers, each group had them. However, none was more evident than Zachary Johannes (Olaf) with his animated, sweetly naïve personality and fun-loving quips. His rendition of “In The Summer” had everyone rooting for him to get his wish while also hoping he didn’t.

Another group of scene stealers were The Snow Dancers: Leah Blake, Breanna Conroy, Georgia-Kate Delfosse, Jane-Grace Delfosse, CJ Koolen, Nyah Rasmussen, Tyler Stover, Bella Sweeney, Ellie Sweeney, and Ayla Thompson. This gifted group of dancers not only provided us a backdrop of beautiful movement. They evoked the images of winter while conveying the playfulness and the terribleness of nature.

From start to finish, Frozen Jr. is a good production. Director Morrie Enders, Music Director Shauna Shaefer, and Choreographer Kaia Anderson effectively played to each child’s strengths, allowing them to have fun while remaining true to the story. Also filled with dazzling costumes and an evocative set, this show is a must-see!

If you go: Remaining performances of Frozen Jr. are December 8, 13-15, and 20-22 at the Lincoln Community Playhouse (2500 S.56th Street Lincoln, NE 68506). Tickets are available online, at the Playhouse box office, or by phone at (402) 489-7529.

Constance Howard discovered the theatre at an early age and never grew out of her love for its magic. With a family full of actors, writers, and musicians, the theatre allows her to follow her passion. She’s a mom of many, part-time actress, and avid theatre-goer.

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