By Hans Christian Andersen
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.
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.
At Victory Gardens Biograph Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL