There is, some will say, nothing more heartwarming than the love and affection two sisters share for each other. This is the very essence of the Riverfront Theatre Company’s production of Frozen Jr., which opens Friday, with two shows, noon and 7pm, at the Olde Walkerville Theatre.
Without distraction, the Company has replicated all the charm and magic of Disney’s 2018 Broadway musical in which two sisters, both Princesses, lead the show. In the Riverfront production, the statuesque Ayslin Downhill takes her role as Elsa, the one with magic powers, to great heights despite playing alongside the scheming Hans, the man who thinks he should be King. Although Hans is up to no good, Oscar Cormier plays the role with a wink, a nod and a perennial smile, so much so that it is hard to believe he’s the bad guy.
He does get his in the end, which, in a Disney production is the way it should be and it is Anna who takes a stab at removing the smile from his face. Two actors share the role of Princess Anna, Livia Downhill and Madison Lafleur. Because the play is a progression of incidents over time, there are younger princesses as well. Nina Conte plays Young Anna while Brie Sieben has the role of Young Elsa. Lily Groen plays Middle Anna and Lilly McMahon plays Middle Elsa.
As the plot develops, grown Anna relies on the unfazeable Ruairi Porcellini in the role of Kristoff. He delivers a rock-solid and empathetic performance as the most logical person to reunite Anna with her beloved sister who lives in an ice castle. Granted, it is not such an easy task with the unfettered danger around most corners in the enchanted and snowy land of Arendelle.
Despite the danger, there is a rather large helping of humour in the sibling’s adventures along with enough songs to make the show incredibly enjoyable. One of the favourites is Elsa’s performance on Let It Go with solo sections and the backing of a full chorus. Its words are memorable particularly the repeatable chorus line, “Let It Go.”
The musical’s beloved music and lyrics, written by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, are carefully replicated on the Walkerville stage with some grandly commanding the full choir of 54 actors, from age 6 to 18.
What is singularly impressive is the attention to detail, particularly the costumes, which add so much authenticity to the production. One standout outfit is that of King Pabbie which is topped with a rather large wig, somewhat akin to the less colourful one worn by King Ezekiel in the Walking Dead, the famed zombie television serial.
It is clear Pabbie, one of the mystical regal leaders of the Hidden Folk, has to have a commanding presence and that is the role Nathan Perry delivers in spades, despite the weight of the wig.
Acting in his fifth stage venture – he was last seen as a policeman in Mary Poppins – he tells Eyes on Windsor the mass on his head causes his neck to wobble.
His costume is also the only one to have been hand-sewn by Lin Garswood. She is one of the twelve-member Costume Team, lead by Costume Director Shannon Porcellini. Other designers are Cheyenne Gauthier, Leanne Pinkowski, Denelle Downhill, Julie Hebert, Alison St. Louis, Bethany Rosebush, Denise Duckett, Kathy MacLean, Laurel Quinlan, Lucja Rota and Andrea Sabine.
There are two important non-human characters who deserve particular note if only for the comical moments they deliver with great aplomb. Isaiah Pinkowski as Sven the reindeer is almost glued to Kristoff, his best pal, and delivers on the promise of much frivolity. On an equal footing, is Olaf, the magical snowman, a creation made possible by the magic of the young princesses. Two actors, Ryan Johnson and Leala Quinlan, share a role demanding a heck of a lot of mumbling frustration. After all, who really listens to a snowman.
Like some of the roles, the director’s chair is also shared, by Katina Visan and Meredith Garswood, assisted by Geneviève Chevalier. Music is under the direction of Meredith Garswood and Jeffrey Gartshore assisted by Matthew Hogan and Radek Budzik
The perfect combination of exceptional music, on the mark acting, and a script that keeps the audience entertained makes for a wonderful evening, or afternoon.
Frozen Jr. will be performed at the Olde Walkerville Theatre on February 21, 22 & 23, 2020. For Friday February 21, a daytime school strike show has been added, starting at Noon and is open to all. Doors open for the evening shows at 6:30pm for a 7pm curtain rise.
Doors for the Saturday, February 22 matinee, will open at 1:30pm with the performance starting at 2pm. This performance will include a sing along involving audience participation. Those who attend are encouraged to dress to reflect their favourite Frozen characters.
Sunday, February 23rd’s matinee will have the doors open at 1:30pm with the show starting at 2pm. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students. A special flat rate ticket price of $10 for students and adults is being offered for the opening “school strike” show on Friday at noon. For more information or to purchase tickets call the Box Office at (519)-253-2929 or visit https://www.oldewalkervilletheatre.com
The Riverfront Theatre Company, a subsidiary of The Youth Connection Association, is a charitable organization formed to provide theatrical training and performance experience to youth from the city and county. It produces a full year of programming with the Broadway Musical Beauty and the Beast next on its schedule for a May opening.
Article by Robert Tuomi
For over a decade, Robert has covered local news and community events. Initially as a contributor to CBC Radio’s local morning show and then as the long-time producer and host of CJAM’s The Rest of the News and as a journalist at the Windsor Square. A graduate of the Nikon School of Photography he enjoys illustrating his reports with what he sees through his camera’s lens.