Snow castles, hobgoblins and reindeer are just a few of the magical elements featured in the Lawrence Arts Center's new holiday play, "The Snow Queen."
The story of "The Snow Queen" was once a Nordic folk tale, then a much-loved Hans Christian Andersen story. Now, LAC drama director Ric Averill has adapted the story to the stage. Averill also composed music for the play that will be performed live by a 12-piece orchestra.
About 130 local actors and dancers, professional and amateur, will take part in what Averill calls a dance drama. He says there are 64 minutes of music and 35 minutes of drama in his version of "The Snow Queen."
But don't let the large-scale production fool you. Averill says the message of the play is beautiful for its simplicity.
"It's a real sweet story about friendship with tons of beautiful moments," Averill explains.
In "The Snow Queen," the protagonist, Gerda, embarks on a magical but dangerous journey to find her friend, Kai, who was spirited away by the Snow Queen.
While on that journey, Gerda encounters all sorts of strange characters that help her on her way. There are swimming fish, played by wriggling dancers. There are dancing flowers in an enchanted garden. There's the ice-cold snow castle where the Snow Queen keeps Kai in her clutches. And then there's the Hobgoblin King, who creates a mysterious mirror that distorts the perception of anyone who looks into it.
Candi Baker, LAC dance director, says she thinks audiences will fall in love with the play's characters.
A big part of what makes those characters so unique, she says, is their costumes.
"The costumes are very imaginative, bright and beautiful," Baker says, adding that the play's costume designer, Jennifer Glenn, is dyeing fabrics and designing each piece herself.
"It's quite an undertaking," Baker says.
Another element that defines the characters is the way they move. There's the Snow Queen herself, who Baker describes as "not evil, but cold and powerful in her way," who dances with chilly precision. Then there are those wriggling fish, played by young dancers in scaly costume, whose brief appearance makes for "a very charming moment."
For the past three years, the arts center has produced "A Kansas Nutcracker." This year, Baker says, they wanted to do something different.
"I think this is a story Ric Averill has always been intrigued by," Baker says, adding that she and other arts center planners are hoping to put on "The Snow Queen" for the next couple of years. She says the center is filled this season with creative excitement. Almost every department has something to do with the production - dance, drama, costume design, set craftsmanship, music - it's all part of "The Snow Queen."
And that, Averill says, is how he likes it.
"It's pretty darn big," he says. "It's such a community effort."