Production by Gilroy’s Little Theater brings a beloved fairytale to Gilroy High School’s theater stage
By Marty Cheek
A flurry of excitement surrounds Gilroy’s Little Theater as 101 local children prepare to put on the icy extravaganza of the holiday season.
The group’s upcoming production of Disney’s “Frozen Jr” will tell on the Gilroy High School stage the adventures of two princess sisters, helped by a mountain man, his reindeer best friend, and a sentient snowman.
The show opens Dec. 8 and runs to Dec. 17 for a total of 10 performances. The winter wonderland on stage will showcase the talents of performers ages 4 to 17.
Based on the Hans Christian Anderson fairytale “The Snow Queen,” the show “Frozen” tells the story of royal sisters, “Elsa” and “Anna,” who live in the kingdom of Arendelle.. Elsa was born with magical icy powers, and as a child she accidentally injures Anna with them. To protect Elsa, their parents isolate her and convince her to conceal her powers from everyone. After her parents die, Elsa prepares to ascend to the throne as the Snow Queen. At her coronation, the troubles start when her powers are publicly revealed.
Jillian Puente plays “Elsa.” The 17-year-old Gilroy High School senior enjoyed working with her fellow performers in the rehearsal process.
“All of the adorable little kids!” she said. “The last few years I haven’t done many shows and as one of the older cast members, it was fun getting to know so many of our rising young stars.”
The themes in the fairytale story remain relevant to modern audiences, she believes.
“I love ‘Frozen’ because it’s about the power of love, the importance of family (by blood or by choice), and being unapologetically yourself,” she said. “Shows like this are a great way to introduce children to the arts but they are also affordable family fun.”
“Frozen” is the sixth show for Brielle Johnson, a 12-year-old who plays “Anna.” She enjoys the process of discovering her character in the rehearsals and that director Rebecca Little encourages the performers to put their own personal touches to their characters.
“I wanted to be a part of ‘Frozen’ because everyone involved in the production is like a family to me,” she said. “I feel incredibly connected to the part of Anna. It has been a dream show of mine ever since I first saw it on Broadway — and I could not miss it!”
She encourages families to watch the show because it teaches many life lessons and the story has many twists and turns along the way. The show is also filled with diverse characters so everyone can see a bit of themselves in the play, she said.
Performing as “Olaf,” the snowman, Dara Hargreaves, 13, felt excited to participate in a musical that’s her first and favorite childhood movie.
“It has been fun to play around with a character that is goofy and different from any roles I had before,” she said. “ I love all the songs in the show, especially ‘In Summer.’ This is a fun show with a ton of energy throughout the entire production. Any age can enjoy it.”
Also playing “Olaf,” Matthew Horta, 11, grew up watching the film “Frozen.” He admires the creative storytelling of Disney.
“My favorite part of the show is singing and dancing ‘In Summer’ with the Summer Chorus. The dance is really fun,” he said. “People should come see ‘Frozen’ because it’s fun, has good music and a good message about family love. It makes me happy to see my family and friends in the audience. Everyone will love this show!”
The performers and crew find themselves enjoying the creative process of bringing this story to life on stage, said the show’s director Rebecca Little.
“It’s a tremendously fun show for people to take their kids to during the holidays,” she said. “The costumes and the sets are going to be fabulous. It’s going to have that wintery scene. It’s just a classic show with songs like ‘Let It Go.’ The kids are all very talented in the cast. The principals are absolutely fabulous.”
Over the years, Little has performed in many shows in the South Valley and helped her daughter, Hilary Little, in putting on children’s shows. But this is her first time directing. Having a cast in triple digits was a little intimidating for her debut as a director.
“Initially, my thought was: ‘Oh dear! I’ve got myself in over my head,” she said. “But, you know what, those kids are so great. And I’ve been involved with every show that (Little Theater) has done. It’s been fun and the kids are having a wonderful time.”
Because of the difficult logistics of having so many kids performing, Rebecca and Hilary made the decision to double cast the children between the 10 performances, so about 50 kids act in each show. Rehearsals can be a tricky affair with younger kids needing to have patience to get on the stage, Rebecca said. She has them stay in small groups to wait until their character is needed to get on stage.
“The only way these rehearsals actually work out is that you have to divide and conquer,” she said. “The kids are great. They’re wonderful and I love working with them. But you get that many on mass – especially at the beginning (of rehearsals) – the noise level just goes up and up and up. Now that the show is well underway and they’ve kind of got the lay of the land, it’s much better.”
Hillary is doing vocal direction and production management for the show. She believes families will enjoy seeing a live version of the animated fantasy film from 2013. A sequel came out in
“It’s Disney, first of all. Everyone loves the magic of Disney. So many kids, young girls especially, just know the story so well from watching the movies. They do know the stage show as well. It touches a special place in their hearts. It’s also about family connection, and that’s especially important this time of year.”
The show promises dazzling sets and effects, including a shimmering ice castle constructed on stage. “I’d say the castle is going to be the showstopper,” Hilary said.
“Frozen” is different from Disney’s musicals in general because its No. 1 message in the story is not about the princess ending up “happily ever after” and finding that one romantic connection. It focuses more on a sibling bond that becomes special, she said.
“Me personally, I like the fact that it’s a variation of the fairytale ‘The Snow Queen,’” Hilary said. “I’m an old-school fairytale lover so it’s kind of cool seeing this is what Disney imagined ‘The Snow Queen’ as and it’s much more different than the original story.”
There are some deep psychological elements infused into the story, she said. It deals with characters growing and maturing as they face painful family issues. But they learn that love can conquer all with the power of family, laughter, and a bit of holiday magic.
“It might go over the heads of kids in the audience, but adults will see the themes,” she said. “I think that’s the brilliance of Disney in general, that they’ll put these really poignant messages in their shows, which appeal to the older audience members. But the funny characters and the amazing song and all that appeals to the younger kids. There’s something in their movies for everybody. It’s just a beautiful story.”