Classical Voice of New England
The Snow Queen
By Mary Elizabeth Nordstrom
December 3, 2011.
With this premiere of his background music for The Snow Queen, Maine’s own composer, Hans Indigo Spencer, ties together all of the classic elements of theater, scripted from the fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson, into what can only become Portland’s unique winning holiday gift of theater. The cast scored a spontaneous standing ovation. Equally outstanding were Pat Buckley, the Snow Queen; Ian Carlsen as Kai; Tom Ford in dual roles of the Inventor and the Crow; Daniel Noel who played both the Storyteller and Ba the Reindeer; and Lauren Orkus as Gerda. All possess impressive stage credentials too numerous to list here. The spoken word projected a Broadway level of eloquence throughout.
Classical Voice of New England does not generally post theater reviews. Its primary focus has been classical music. Poised to do business as Performing Arts of New England in the very near future, I asked Executive Editor Phyllis Nordstrom to assign me a review because I had heard that the Portland Stage music director, a resident of Maine, wrote the original music for The Snow Queen. One of the non-profit CVNewEng’s missions is to promote New England musicians. From the program notes, I learned that among other achievements of Hans Indigo Spencer, the Chameleon Arts Ensemble, “one of Boston’s premier classical chamber groups”, regularly features his music in their family concerts. The Boston Globe has called Spencer “a Master composer.”
The lovely background music, like the soundtrack of a movie, seemed to be the medium that blended it all together, but was completely unobtrusive. It might not be have been detected, so naturally did it follow the emotion of the action, had one not been studying it. The performers retold this Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale extremely well. Costume Designer Susan Thomas dressed the show brilliantly. The look transported the audience to 19th century Denmark. Minimal but clever sets graced the stage. The lighting and projection effects were well done. My face became uncontrollably set in a wide effortless smile for two whole hours, 7 to 9 p.m., the time set to accommodate children (and elders.) Perhaps The Snow Queen had frozen the grin in place! (Everything she touched turned to ice.)
With hearty recommendation, those planning to attend are nevertheless reminded that there is no handicapped parking specifically reserved at 25-A Forest Avenue, Portland. However, there is a five-minute drop-off space in front of the entrance and a parking deck across the street. The ticket office is at the rear of the first floor hall, behind which is a very small but good quality elevator to deliver either several passengers or one wheel chair at a time to the second floor theater. One can only hope that the production will become so popular that it will move to Merrill Auditorium or tour to such venues as City Theater in Biddeford in the future, where handicapped access is easier. At either of these theaters, as examples, tour buses from continuing care communities could help fill the house. Evacuation by tiny elevator would seem difficult here.