Hearts are sure to melt when Delta Center Stage’s production of “Frozen Jr,” based on the 2018 Broadway musical adaption, opens Thursday night at E.E. Bass in Jake and Freda Stein Hall.
Showtime is set for 7:30 p.m. nightly Thursday through Saturday with a matinee showing scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Sunday.
One of Disney’s most beloved animated fixtures will be rendered live on stage by a cast of young, local talent eager to bring those elements of magic and music to its audience.
Frozen Jr.’s main characters, the elder Anna and Elsa, will be portrayed by Eliza Hardy and Hannah Smith respectively.
The younger Anna and Elsa will be portrayed by Ali Anne Flanagan and Abigail Stokes respectively.
Frozen Jr. expands upon the emotional relationship and journey between Princesses Anna and Elsa.
“Frozen Jr.” director Sarah Wilkerson made her DCS directorial debut two years ago in DCS’ “Peter Pan” production along with co-director Allie Rowe.
“I’m really excited for this community experience to happen again because we were shut down for so long,” Wilkerson said. “I’m also really excited that we’re having this production, especially one that’s so popular. That was the reason we picked this one — because our cast has just been so full of energy and they’re so excited for it.”
Wilkerson said based on what she’s heard from the public, people are really excited to witness “Frozen Jr.” and that is what she is looking forward to the most on opening night — the children dressing up as their favorite characters like Anna, Elsa, Kristoff and others.
“I really hope that we deliver that magical experience not only for the kids, but the adults too. That was the reason we rented the puppets of Olaf and Sven — they look like the characters. And, I hope that people believe in the magic that is Frozen,” she shared.
When it comes to the charismatic duo of characters that are Olaf and Sven — a pair of snowman and reindeer pals to Anna and Elsa — the attending audiences will be in for a treat.
Wilkerson highlighted that while some Frozen productions opt to use costumes for the characters, it can present a feeling that’s less than believable.
With that, she wanted to use the puppets of Olaf and Sven so they would look “as real as they can.”
She said on utilizing the puppets, “This is an animated movie so it’s really hard to have a snowman be a character and it’s the same with the reindeer, so, we just really wanted it to be as believable as possible.”
Noting the difficulty of operating the puppets, Wilkerson said, “These cast members that are operating these puppets are teenagers. They are so talented and have put so much work into it that the talent is still there and you still see the person operating the puppet, but it’s like an extension of the puppet.”
“So, the magic is there along with being true to theater and giving a good performance.”
As true to the original as “Frozen Jr.” is, Wilkerson pointed out that there are a few musical numbers that have been added in, particularly with the minor character Oaken who has a small dance number in the musical production.
“It’s really cute,” she said, “so there are some opportunities for characters to be bigger in the production, but overall it does stay really true to the story about two sisters who go through this experience together.”
Hardy, who plays the older Anna, is a senior at Cleveland Central High School and “Frozen Jr.” will mark her second production with DCS.
Her first was as an ensemble in DCS’ production Little Shop of Horrors in Feb. 2020.
“I’ve been doing theater since I was about seven, particularly singing, and so that got me into musical theater and plays,” Hardy said.
The CCHS Drama Club president attributed much of her musical theater maturation to her experience with the Delta Arts Alliance in Cleveland, which is where she got her start.
“The DAA started doing little plays when I was younger and that’s what got me into doing it (musical theater),” Hardy recalled. “So I just grew up and then I got into our school program and started going to a lot of camps like the Orpheum Camp and the Core Arts Camp in Cleveland.”
She also plans to continue her musical theater endeavors in college.
On landing the role of Anna, Hardy said, “I auditioned the last day you were able to audition and it took about two days for the cast list to come out and I’ve loved it so much. It’s like the best production I’ve ever been in.”
Hardy also noted the two-month long process of bringing the production to life and the two-hour long process (hair, makeup and wardrobe) of bringing her character to life.
“It is a lot of hard work,” she said, “giving your time to a whole show, especially if you’re a main character, it’s a lot.”
However, not only does Hardy love her character portrayal, she loves seeing audiences’ reactions to the cast and crew’s hard work.
“I know they don’t know everything that went into it, but the way it translates on stage is truly magical, especially with Disney productions and Frozen in general,” she gleamed. “I love just hearing the audience laugh or whatever reaction, it just makes me feel proud of what we’ve worked on.”
Wilkerson reiterated how diligently the young people have worked in DCS’ youth musical, which ranges from age 5 to 21, the majority being teenage to middle school aged.
She added, “I think just the amount of work and passion that has gone into this is really evident from the set and lighting to the costumes and the puppets being so accurate. We really want this to be a magical experience for the audience and it’s perfect to bring kids to, it’s a shorter production and has an hour and a half run time at the most.”
Disney’s “Frozen Jr.” is presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre International (MTI) and all authorized performance materials are also supplied by MTI. mtishows.com
For adults, ticket cost is $15 and for students or those 16 and under, $10. Admission is free to new DCS season ticket holders.
For more information, visit deltastage.com.