With Disney’s “Frozen” animated film, the studio created two of their most loved princesses. A whole generation has grown up imitating Elsa and Anna and singing their songs. The movie version featured the sisters as they grew up and overcame hardships.
Halifax County Little Theatre’s production of “Frozen Jr.” brings the story to life on stage and relies on the performances of a trio of Annas and Elsas to show the growth of the sisters’ love and devotion for one another.
Fortunately for HCLT, the popularity of the show was enough to insure a stage full of auditionees to choose from.
Director Jessica Rose Hayes listened patiently through endless versions of “Let it go” to find Elsas and Annas in all ages and sizes, and they will all be on stage on opening night, Nov. 22, for the benefit of every little girl who ever wanted to build a snowman with her sister.
The show opens with the innocence of the young girls playing and enjoying the simple joys of life in the cold northern winters of Arendelle. Taylor Ashwell plays the more serious sister, Anna, to Maggie Rose Hayes’ fun loving and playful Elsa. Even at their young ages, both have considerable on-stage experience.
Ashwell has been in several HCLT productions and stood out last year in “Seussical the Musical,” singing beside her mother, Lori Ashwell, as the Sour Kangaroo and her daughter. Maggie Rose Hayes appears as the slightly older and more serious sister, Elsa. She also has appeared in HCLT shows and plays at First Baptist Church. In last year’s production of “Seussical the Musical,” Hayes played the mayor’s wife of the Whos.
As the play progresses, so do the ages of the princesses. Brooklyn Comer as Anna and Lilly Beatty as Elsa assume their parts as the slightly older sisters with the same energy and talent as their younger counterparts.
As the second Anna, Comer is working to create as much enthusiasm as possible in her performance. She is inspired by the original animated version and has loved “Frozen” for a long time.
She said, “You have to work hard and make it count to make a good performance.”
Beatty is excited to be in her first HCLT production as the middle Elsa. She said she, “loves drama and performing in front of others.” A dance student for several years, she also said, “The best part is practicing with my mom, our choreographer.”
As the production arrives at the most serious scenes, the roles of the princesses are assumed by Emily Briggs as Anna and Gracie Berneche as Elsa. As the action and suspense build to a climax, the actresses demonstrate their skills as singers.
Emily Briggs said, “Theatre is a passion of mine, so any time I get a chance to perform, I will.”
She is attracted to the character because of Anna’s high energy and the joy of the songs from the show. She is also happy to be part of the love story in the production. What more could a 13-year-old want?
In her free time, Briggs likes drawing and doing any kind of art. She feels that the themes of the show are that “a person shouldn’t judge so fast” and that “love is a force that is powerful and strange.”
And finally, Gracie Berneche fills the role of Elsa, the Queen of Arendelle, with the experience of a pro. A senior at Galileo Magnet School in Danville, she is appearing in her final Jr. show. She describes Anna as a princess who struggles to protect her sister from a curse that turns things she touches to ice.
Berneche wants to share the magic of a movie, “transformed to a completely new experience on stage.”
She adds Elsa to a long list of star appearances on The Prizery stage, including Annie in the classic musical and more recently the amazing Gertrude McFuzz from last year’s “Seussical.”
In addition to her many roles on stage locally, Berneche is involved with productions at Galileo Magnet School and youth activities at church. She is involved with her school’s Glee Club (as president) and the School Theatre Guild (as president).
As Berneche looks to pursue new challenges after graduation, she will be going out on a high with a part that any young actress would desire, saying, “I get to fulfill my lifelong dream of being a Disney princess!”
Director Jessica Hayes said, “Taylor, Brooklyn and Emily all have the charismatic energy that Princess Anna needs to find her sister off the North Mountain. Each brings her own energy, humor and fun and show us that life needs a few laughs.”
She added, “All three of my Princess Elsas bring theatre experience to the table as they portray the tormented Snow Queen. Their experience is evident as each shows the complexities of a traumatized Elsa who just wants to shelter her sister.”
You can live the wonder with all the Annas and Elsas beginning with opening night at 7:30 p.m. Friday in The Prizery theatre. Every little girl (regardless of age) who ever wanted to “let it go” can experience the story live. HCLT has arranged for the sale of special lighted magic wands to be used in the final act’s climax. Pick one up for $5 before the show or at intermission for a complete “Frozen Jr.” memory.
Additional performances are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 23, 29 and 30 with two matinees set on Nov. 24 and Dec. 1 at 3 p.m. Tickets are on sale at The Prizery box office daily or online at prizery.com. Tickets are going fast, so get them now to insure the best seats. Those Thanksgiving visitors will be ready for a night out with Disney’s favorite sisters.