Chris Turner knew immense pressure would come with being one of only 51 high schools in the country allowed to perform Disney’s “Frozen” on stage.
The Mount Pleasant High School drama director hoped that pressure will create diamonds, and a memorable show for folks in the Brandywine School District community and beyond.
“We knew we were the only school doing it in, the only school allowed to do it in the state,” he said. “And the [Broadway] tour has not played in the Philadelphia area yet.”
Mount Pleasant’s show, which played to sold-out audiences last week would be the first time anyone who hasn’t seen “Frozen” on Broadway, would see the show, he said, so the Disney magic is a lot to live up to.
He and his crew of 60 students created a wish list of items they wanted to bring the popular movie to life.
Keeping in mind the production’s budget helped narrow his list.
Typically, he said, he tried to keep production costs under $20,000, and the money largely depends on ticket sales for the previous years performances.
“We knew we needed snow, we knew we wanted a video wall,” he said. “Our technical director knew that the existing lighting that we had, which is not much, was not going to work for what we wanted to do. When people walk in, we want everyone to feel like they are immersed in the Disney experience.”
Several local organizations also chipped in to help the school.
This was a win-win, Turner said, as the play would benefit from donations, and Delaware companies could have their name on signage as a sponsor, as well as a handful of free tickets.
Wilmington’s Light Action Productions, for example, donated a few trusses and worked with Turner to reduce the cost of lighting in order to fit into the show’s budget.
‘Frozen’ special effects
Any “Frozen” fan knows there are some magical special effects in the movie, and Turner said the play will try to replicate that.
In one important scene, Olaf the snowman melts, which Turner said led to some creative challenges for the cast and costume crew.
Alana Maria Carter-Grimes, a senior, is Olaf.
“For the melting scene, my costume is this huge Olaf body, and it’s pretty hollow inside, so when I melt I kind of just sink down and fall to the ground,” she said. “It’s pretty hilarious.”
She was one of 50 people to audition for the play. The production has 30 actors and 30 students in the stage crew. Working on set design, lighting, sound, costumes and more.
“I know everyone’s feeling the pressure because we’re all trying to make this the best we can possibly make it, but I think with the pressure there’s also some fun,” Carter-Grimes said. “People are taking it seriously but they’re trying to acknowledge how exciting this opportunity is.”
Earlier this week, a few hundred elementary students in the district were given a preview of the show.
That preview was Carter-Grimes’s favorite part of being in “Frozen,” along with building friendships and connections with everyone involved in the play,
“They were hearing all those songs and they were cheering and so excited and engaged,” she said. “We all need to remember that this is a really fun opportunity and everyone is going to love it, regardless.”
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Leyah Eggleston, a senior, is playing Elsa, the lead role in the play.
She agreed that the preview for elementary students has been her favorite part.
“Singing ‘Let it Go’ and hearing the roar of like 500 5-to-10-year-olds was such a crazy experience,” she said. “In my head, I was thinking, am I going to do this right and is this the Elsa they want to see, and that performance instantly reassured me.”
While Eggleston was singing the hit song, Carter-Grimes said a lot of the students and even people backstage were crying tears of joy.
The two leads and Turner said they really want to make this show unique to other “Frozen” renditions.
But they also collaborated with the New Jersey and Pennsylvania high schools who won the bid to perform the show.
The three schools won production rights through a contest called “The United States of Frozen: Love as an Open Door,” organized by the Educational Theatre Association, Disney Theatrical Group and Music Theatre International.
The contest evaluated three aspects of schools’ theater programs: diversity and inclusion, community outreach, and capacity to include a live orchestra as part of its production.
“Somehow, the school in Pennsylvania was in Lansdale, and then the school in New Jersey was in Vorhees, so we’re all within an hour of each other,” he said. “We said, ‘Let’s do something, Let’s promote this as the Delaware Valley ‘Frozen,’ so we did a press event on March 6 up at the Wilmer Theatre in Philadelphia.”
Raised in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Jarek earned a B.A. in journalism and a B.A. in political science from Temple University in 2021. After running CNN’s Michael Smerconish’s YouTube channel, Jarek became a reporter for the Bucks County Herald before joining Delaware LIVE News.
Jarek can be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at (215) 450-9982. Follow him on Twitter @jarekrutz
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