Theatre ReviewsTom Williams

The Snow Queen

By Hans Christian AndersenSnow Queen main_0.preview

Originally Adapted by Michael Barrow Smith, Frank Galati and Blair Thomas

Music and Lyrics by Michael Barrow Smith

Directed by Jim Corti

At the Victory Gardens Biograph Theater

Neatly polished fourth year mounting of The Snow Queen is the best yet

Their 4th season is the most charming, melodic and enchanting production of Victory Gardens and Michael Smith’s gem of a holiday folk opera–The Snow Queen. Under director Jim Corti the choreography and movements seem more fluid and integrated into the storytelling flow.  The addition of golden voiced Leslie Ann Sheppard to the fine cast adds charm and another big voice.

Snow Queen

I still stand by what I originally said in 2006:

“I do believe that Michael Smith (the Chicago folk music legendary composer/performer) has produced a world class score filled with a variety of folk styles that include ballads, patter songs, cowboy tunes, blues, jazz, polkas and Broadway style show tunes. His lyrics are witty, funny and ironic. They tell the story deftly—-actually this is a chamber folk opera since it is sung throughout. The visuals and terrific puppetry from Blair Thomas enhances the storytelling quite nicely. The onstage band (including composer Michael Smith) sounder excellent. Each veteran folk performer moved onto the stage to sing  with the three principle actors. The result of this is a fluid mixture of voices, tones and moods that propelled the story and giving the show a large cast feel despite only three actors.”


Cheryl Lynn Bruce, continues as the storyteller, sang wonderfully as she created and sold the main story elements. Leslie Ann Sheppard (Gerda) vocals were outstanding and she have a contagious smile. Andrew Keltz, in his 4th year as Kai, exuded charm, innocence and a pleasant voice. The puppetry and the back drop visuals were more stunning and effective this year.


Andersen’s world of fantasy, myth and dreams are creatively presented as Smith’s wickedly funny lyrics and warm songs are a joy to experience. They  are the strongest elements of the show. Smith is a lyrical genius who can tell a story, comment on a mood and develop a character smartly through snappy, telling lyrics. He then adds arrangements and tuneful folksy (some hints of light rock) melodies to deliver terrific musical numbers that both move the story along and nicely charm us. Whimsical, witty, warm, scary tunes adorn this dark fairy tale. Songs like “Ravenheart,” “Love Letter On A Fish” and “The Princes and Memory” were memorable. Michael Smith’s score is deliciously compelling. His genius pours forth. After four productions, I believe The Snow Queen is ready for a national audience.


For those who have never seen The Snow Queen–get to the Victory Gardens Biograph Theater and enjoy this smart, artful chamber folk opera. It will dazzle you.

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

At Victory Gardens Biograph Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL

3 thoughts on “The Snow Queen

  • Gary Tuber

    I’ve enjoyed The Snow Queen every time I’ve seen it – but the composer is Michael Peter Smith, Not M ichael Barrow Smith. The reviewer must have been confused by Michael’s wife, Barbara Barrow, who is also in the cast.

  • I am looking at the “Chicagoplays” paybill and Smith’s name is listed twice as “Michael Barrow Smith.” That’s why it is list that way in my review.
    Tom Williams

  • Dear folks:
    Late to the fray I should let you know that since Equity already has a Michael Peter Smith, I was compelled to change my name for Equity shows, and I decided to use the middle name Barrow in the spirit of John Lennon making his middle name Ono.
    Peace to all,
    Michael Smith

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