Worth Melting For
Starlight’s ‘Frozen Jr.’ brings winter to Phoenix
By Laura Latzko
The film 2013 “Frozen” enthralled audiences young and old with its catchy music and central storyline of sisterly love. The musical version sends a similar message of the importance of family and presents many of the same characters.
The Starlight Community Theater will present “Frozen Jr.,” an abbreviated version of the Broadway musical, from Friday, August 23, to Saturday, September 7.
Adapted from the film by Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Robert Lopez and Jennifer Lee, the full musical opened on Broadway in March 2018.
In the show, Elsa can create snow and ice but must hide her magical ability from others, including her sister Anna. Although they are close when they are little, this power ultimately endangers Anna and puts a strain on their relationship.
During Elsa’s coronation, she is no longer able to hide who she is and is forced to flee. In the process, she brings a permanent winter to her town. With the help of ice seller Kristoff and his sidekick reindeer Sven, Anna goes on a journey to help her sister.
Also central to the story is a love triangle between Anna, Kristoff and Hans.
The show has popular songs from the film such as “Let It Go,” “Love is an Open Door,” “Do You Want to Build a Snowman” and “In Summer.” It also presents new songs such as “Dangerous to Dream” and “Hygge.”
Directed by Nathalie Velasquez, the production will have a cast of 34 youth, ranging in age from 5 to 17.
Many of the actors hail from North Phoenix and Anthem, but some youth travel from West Valley cities such as Buckeye and Goodyear for four rehearsals a week.
In the show, three actresses have been cast as Elsa and Anna at different ages.
Many of the cast members grew up watching “Frozen.” Velasquez says for the actresses playing Elsa and Anna, the roles are meaningful.
“I think it’s pretty much any young girl’s dream to be Anna or Elsa. Every girl wants to be a princess. Just being able to play the role in our production I believe is a dream come true,” Velasquez says.
Some children play multiple roles in the production. The show is what audiences expect from “Frozen” but also more by adding little twists and turns.
“I think a lot of people, when they are going to watch ‘Frozen Jr.,’ are going to expect it to be a lot like the movie. I think we’re going to meet those expectations, but we’re all going to surprise you with some new, fun things,” Velasquez says.
Like any production based on a popular film, the director is trying to offer a fresh take with the favorite bits from the movie.
“I like to keep some of those iconic parts that people expect, but then I also face that challenge of not necessarily trying to reinvent the wheel but bring a new element to the show,” Velasquez says.
“That’s where I get to be really creative. You have to find a fun balance. I don’t like to copy what other people have done, but you try to keep those moments as well.”
The show is filled with big production numbers with a variety of dance styles like ballroom, lyrical/contemporary and ballet.
One of the biggest challenges for the creative team will be to bring magic to the stage. The lighting effects, costumes and set design are keys to creating winter and Elsa’s transformation.
Velasquez has worked with theater companies throughout the Valley, including Starlight, Valley Youth Theatre and TheaterWorks. Her theatrical background includes training in piano, dance and voice.
She finds working with children and teens to be rewarding because of the growth she can help foster in them, even during one show.
One of the biggest challenges for her, however, is working with cast members who are at different levels in their development.
In shows such as “Frozen Jr., “the older actors often act as role models and mentors to the younger ones.
“You are able to challenge the older actors to step up and be really great examples…The young kids can learn from the older kids, and the older kids also get to step into some leadership roles,” Velasquez says.