Winter wonder part of family show

Dancers performing in the production The

A group of young dancers watches others perform during The

From left, Mulligan Greenwell, Grace Ellen Clark, Juliet Remmers, Lucy Shopen and Makiko Imamura take a rehearsal break from The

Dancer Shannon Pickett, right, rehearses her role as the Snow Queen.

With a “dazzling whiteness” and cloak and cap made of snow, the Snow Queen returns to the Lawrence Arts Center for the second consecutive year.

Based on a fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, “The Snow Queen” features original music, choreography and a charm made to captivate an array of viewers.

The story was first published in 1845 and focuses on love, loyalty, determination and the struggle between good and evil through the eyes of a little boy and girl, Kai and Gerda. The Snow Queen, who travels the world with snow, kidnaps Kai, which leaves Gerda to save him.

On the voyage to find her friend, Gerda encounters swimming fish, dancing flowers in an enchanted garden and the Hobgoblin King, who creates an evil mirror that alters reality.

Ric Averill, stage director, said he fell in love with the story. “It’s a very sweet story of a friendship and a young girl’s quest to find and help her friend,” he said. He said the Arts Center’s production is “pretty close” to the original tale.

Averill, who also serves as drama program director and artistic director for the Arts Center, described the show as a two-act dance drama that tells the story through dancing and acting. It features 60 minutes of music and 30 minutes of play script.

“It’s partially ballet and a combination of professional and student dancers and actors working together,” he said. “It combines the drama and dance programs.”

Averill, who said he borrowed some musical themes from his previous works, composed all of the music for “The Snow Queen.” Jeff Dearinger, who also did the musical arrangement, will conduct the show’s orchestra.

Deb Bettinger, main choreographer, said Averill’s original music is one of the several reasons she enjoys working on the show. “I like the story,” she said. “I love working with the kids and everyone else.”

Bettinger, who also teaches dance classes at the Arts Center, has prepared by working with child and adult dancers in the show. She said Candi Baker of the Arts Center also is working with the “babies and youngest” dancers of the show.

Having worked on “The Snow Queen” last year, alongside Averill, Bettinger said the show is more efficient in storytelling this time around.

“We’ve taken out some pieces and polished it,” she said. “It’s an advantage you have working on a piece for a second year.”

Averill said “The Snow Queen” is the Art Center’s recent alternative to “A Kansas Nutcracker.”

“We did the ‘Kansas Nutcracker’ for four years until the kids had every bit of it memorized,” he said. The Arts Center will likely present “The Snow Queen” for at least another year after this season, he said.

“The Snow Queen” stars students, community members and professionals. Averill said the ages of students range from 6 to 18, and entire families even perform in the show.

More than 100 community members auditioned for the show in September. The show features Shannon Pickett as the Snow Queen, Devany West as Gerda, Alyosha Mitchell as Kai, Emma Davison as Robber Girl and Averill as the Hobgoblin King.

Starring actors of all ages, the show also is intended for an audience just as diverse, according to Averill. “It is really a family piece of theater,” he said. “I’d have a hard time saying this should be for one age group. I think people are moved by it no matter what.”

The Arts Center also will host “The Snow Queen’s Crystal Iced Tea Party,” a pre-performance event featuring “tea and treats with the characters” on Dec. 9, according to the Arts Center Web site.

“The Snow Queen” will be performed at the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 N.H., on Dec. 7, 8, 14 and 15 at 7:30 p.m. and Dec. 9 and 16 at 2 p.m.