By Jamie Bullins
Beatrice Community Players, Thursday, July 22, 2021, 7:30 pm.
Would it be safe to say that Frozen is Disney’s last huge, animated hit? Released in 2013, it is considered one of Disney’s top franchises and has spawned a Broadway musical adaptation and now a sequel film as well, out in 2019.
What young person at some point (and some not so young) has not spun around singing “Let It Go” at the top of their lungs? Here, Cecily Wiedel gets to play that out on stage, during a scene that sees the entire stage (and her) transform right before the audience’s eyes. We’re not on a Broadway budget here in Beatrice, but it’s magical, nonetheless.
Frozen Jr is a part of Beatrice Community Players’ Stars of Summer program, their children’s theatre series for kids ages 8 to 15. Just a note, no students are turned away and there is financial support for those who need it. Key that emphasis on ‘community’ again. I know you hear it from me constantly.
I was in the opening night crowd, and I’ve rarely seen so many proud parents, friends, and family in an audience. There was a palpable buzz around me throughout and so many bunches of flowers to be handed out after the performance. All the flowers! These kids are loved. And they should be. And truly lauded for their energy and efforts. I know there were times my laughter was in misplaced moments. That’s one of the absolute greatest things about kids performing. They just go for it. And if something unplanned happens, they don’t know to be embarrassed, they just go with it. When Weselton’s wig falls off during a cartwheel (well executed, I must say), he just grabs it and plops it back on his head. No worries. What’s the problem?
Kudos to Tyler J. Rinne (director), Katrina Umland (music director), and Elena Rinne (choreographer) for wrangling this group and keeping it all together. It all looked very purposeful, and it was well staged in a relatively small space and with what seemed at times like a small army of kids.
With just a handful of light cues, selected props, a few significant scenic elements, and lots of costume pieces for lots of bodies, the performance was well put together visually without being overbearing or getting in the way of the flow of the story. And I don’t know whose idea it was to put that mustache on that little ‘townsperson’ boy, but I would like to shake your hand. It was a highlight of the show for me. His obvious awareness, and his efforts to hide it, was hilarious. Again, kids on stage.
Bailey Schwab (Anna), Cecily Wiedel (Elsa), David Maurstad (Olaf), Callen Behrends (Kristoff), and Ashton Hofeling-Hyberger (Sven) were super fun to watch. I may be wrong, and forgive me for not knowing, but I don’t think it was these kids’ first rodeo. Their timing and overall performances were certainly pleasantly surprising. So, good instincts, or good teaching, or both.
And, as I said, there were a great number of ensemble members, playing multiple roles. Keep your eyes on these kids if you go: I especially remember one young lady that was definitely ‘in it to win it’. A petite brunette with the keenest of focus. Every moment was the most important of every character she embodied. Immersed 100% and believing it. Acting 101; objectives, super clear, tactics, on point. She was mesmerizing. I only regret that I couldn’t catch her name. She knows who she is.
If Frozen Jr is an indication of the consistency of the work of their children’s summer camps, put this on your calendar for an annual outing. Support this group and these kids. Some of these young people could have discovered a life-long love and be at this for years to come. Who knows where they could end up?
Thanks for having me, Beatrice Community Players. Keep telling your stories.
If you go: You can catch Frozen Jr July 23 & 24 with 7:30 pm curtain times and 2:00 pm on July 24 & 25 as well. Reservations are encouraged and can be made online.
Jamie Bullins is on the faculty in the Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film at UNL, since the fall of 2017. He is an Educator, Scenographer, Director, and Playwright and has been at it for almost 30 years now.
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