Family Room

The cast of Vermont Youth Theatre’s “Frozen JR.”

Everyone knows the song, the movie sequel was recently released, and the Broadway touring company went out this year. So it was really the perfect time for Rutland Youth Theatre to choose “Disney’s Frozen JR” for its winter show.

“Disney’s Frozen JR” is based on the 2018 Broadway musical, and brings Elsa, Anna and the magical land of Arendelle to life onstage. A story of true love and acceptance between sisters, it follows the relationship and journey between Princesses Anna and Elsa.

“Elsa is so complex and interesting,” said Rutland High School senior, 17- year-old Haley Lassen, who plays Elsa. “We all know her story and her struggles from “uncontrollable” ice powers to the loss of her parents.”

But Lassen describes Elsa as an “empowered female role model,” and taking the role also means she’s tasked with “the huge responsibility of taking on the very well-known song ‘Let It Go’.”

“I try and make it relatable,” Lassen said about getting into character. “I unfortunately cannot relate to the magical powers, but the feeling of isolation and almost self-loathing growing into self-love is what I have based my character on. I think we have all experienced isolation and alienation in our lives one way or another.”

High school freshman, 15-year-old Cordelia Senecal, plays her sister Anna, and said she tackled her role in a similar way. “I look for the most relatable part to myself in the character and use that to help me explore their personality. Anna is a positive character, so I have to remember to drop all of my fears and give in to my excitement.”

Which is also the central message in the story.

“There’s this line in it at the end,” said producer Sarah McGee, who is also the new creative coordinator for Rutland Youth Theatre. “‘I take this warmth within and send it up above, goodbye to fear, let’s fill the world with light and love.’

“I think that is why the show resonated with me,” McGee said. “That’s what these kids do, they’re so brave, and that’s what I am most excited for the audience to see, is how courageous these kids are and how true the message is.”

Auditions were open to ages kindergarten through high school seniors, and involved learning monologues, preparing songs, and a dance component, which produced a cast of 64 local kids.

McGee’s husband Kelly is directing the show, his first for RYT, but they are no strangers to the stage. They moved to the area with their kids about a year and a half ago from Grand Rapids, Michigan, where they had their own theater company.

“When we first moved here my son saw the poster for auditions for ‘Newsies,’” Sarah McGee said. “He was cast, and he found his people. And then I got to meet parents and work back stage, it was how we found our footing in a new community.”

Kelly McGee talked about taking on the challenge of directing 64 kids under the age of 18, saying, “What we’re trying to do is develop that collaboration of creation. For youth theater you really want the kids to be part of the process, I want them to feel like we’ve done this together.”

He did a lot of improv exercises with them to help them feel more comfortable and foster a creative environment.

“The whole idea behind improv is it’s allowing you to be your truest you,” McGee explained. “You’re just thinking off the top of your head and it’s really about being comfortable with who you are, to express yourself freely without worry.”

On Saturday, in anticipation of the show, kids can ice skate with characters from “Disney’s Frozen JR” 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Giorgetti Ice Arena, 2 Oak St. Extension in Rutland. Admission is $5 per person plus a non-perishable item to donate to Rutland Community Cupboard. Along with the show’s characters and an appearance by Santa, there will be “Frozen”-themed crafts, a photo booth, and face painting.

Rutland Youth Theatre presets “Disney’s Frozen JR.” at 7 p.m. Friday, Dec.13 at 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14 at 2 & 7 p.m. at the Paramount Theatre, 30 Center St. in Rutland. Tickets are $10-$12; call 802-775-0903, or go online to www.paramountvt.org.

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