Though the story of Frances Smith Cohen's The Snow Queen isn't exactly a holiday tale, the local show has become a Christmastime tradition for many Valley families.
In it, Cohen turns the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale of the same name into a 90-minute performance that includes students from dozens of local dance schools, in addition to the members of Center Dance Ensemble. It's a decidedly family-friendly -- and, specifically, kid-friendly -- show that follows a young woman as she rescues her love from the clutches of an icy Snow Queen.
See also: 41 Must-Attend Holiday Events in Metro Phoenix The tale begins when the Snow Queen smashes her magic mirror. The shards reach Kai, a village dancer, piercing his heart and eye. His heart subsequently freezes, making him forget his love, Gerta. He runs away, and she, of course, pursues him - the journey taking her to the homes of the Snow Queen's three sisters, who rule their own seasons.
Much of the show's charm comes from the many young performers who appear in it. In nearly every scene, dancers ranging in age from 7 to 18 leap and spin across the stage, their half-pointed toes and enormous grins making it nearly impossible not to smile. It's nice to see the young dancers actually dancing, rather than just serving as a living props or mindlessly executing overly simplistic choreography.
Erica Lizette's performance as Gerta, the lovestruck village girl, is a delight. The likable and energetic performer's respectable acting skills make her a perfect fit for the role, which requires no small amount of pantomime. Less satisfying is D. Daniel Hollingshead as Kai. Hollingshead's far from flawless technique is confusing and at times distracting from rest of the production.
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The role of the Snow Queen, played by Amber Robins, is a smaller one than you'd expect. She's almost entirely unseen until the final two scenes, though it's still enough time to appreciate Robins as a talented performer. And despite an unflattering costume, Katie McDowell makes a charming Rose Spirit.
Overall, the production may not wow you with its costuming or sets, but it might be enough to impress your young companion. And though The Snow Queen probably isn't the best holiday production in town, it might just be the most heartwarming.
Snow Queen performances run through Sunday, December 22, at Herberger Theater Center. Tickets are $13 for students, $22 for seniors, and $27 for adults. Visit www.herbergertheater.org or call 602-252-8497.