AISLE SAY San Francisco


Music by Haddon Kime
Lyrics by Kirsten Brandt, Haddon Kime & Rick Lombardo
Book by Kirsten Brandt & Rick Lombardo
Directed by Rick Lombardo
Presented by San Jose Repertory Theatre
San Jose Repertory Theatre
101 Paseo de San Antonio, San Jose, CA / (408) 367-7255

Reviewed by Judy Richter

San Jose Repertory Theatre is bravely presenting the world premiere of an ambitious homegrown musical, "The Snow Queen."

Based on the fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, this adaptation follows the intrepid young Gerda (Eryn Murman) as she tries to find and then rescue her friend, Kai (Tim Homsley), who has fallen into the clutches of the evil Snow Queen (Jane Pfitsch).

During Gerda's long journey she meets some good and some bad people as well as some good animals and flowers. Most actors in the energetic 10-person ensemble play several roles, and some take up instruments to play with the three-person onstage band.

All of this takes place on a two-level set with movable platforms designed by Erik Flatmo. Lighting and artistic projections, especially the lovely aurora borealis, by David Lee Cuthbert help to define settings.

The show features a book by associate artistic director Kirsten Brandt and artistic director Rick Lombardo, who also directs and choreographs the production. The music is by Haddon Kime with lyrics by all three. Musical direction is by Dolores Duran-Cefalu, who conducts from the keyboard.

Kime's music is a mix of ballads and rock, some of it sounding the same. Some of it seems derivative of Stephen Sondheim's "Into the Woods." The show's best received song was "Flying," which ends the first act. "Never Give Up," which opens the second act, is also noteworthy for Lombardo's choreography.

The show would benefit from some cutting. For example, the scene with the Old Crow (Jason Hite) goes on too long, especially with his overacting. "I Want That," sung by Robber Girl (Cindy Im), who captures Gerda, could be eliminated.

Frances Nelson McSherry has designed some fanciful costumes and outfitted the Snow Queen in a beautiful, glittering white gown, but Gerda's outfit seems drab. For that matter, Murman's performance lacks the stage presence and spark that would make Gerda a stronger heroine.

When it comes to stage presence, Pfitsch has it in spades as the Snow Queen. Another strong presence comes from Lee Ann Payne in her multiple roles, especially as Gerda's grandmother, the Witch and the Wise Woman of the North. Homsley is noteworthy as Kai. Rhett George's best moments come when he portrays the reindeer that helped Gerda.

This two-act show runs more than two hours, including a 20-minute intermission. Because it tends to be episodic and because the diction could be better in some songs, it's sometimes hard to follow. That's where judicious pruning would be helpful, as would a more detailed synopsis in the program.

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