By John Berger
Special to the Star-Bulletin
A classic Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale is presented in colorful and imaginative style with Kennedy Theatre's production of "The Snow Queen And The Goblin." Director Peggy Hunt uses a striking set, elaborate costumes, props, puppets, sound effects, forgettable but serviceable music, and more dance numbers than necessary to tell the story.
The strengths of the production far outweigh its weaknesses, and the whole thing comes together well as clean and thought provoking entertainment for pre-teens. Mark Branner and Michael Ng quickly become audience favorites in key roles.
The Goblin (Branner) isn't wicked exactly, but rather a jealous prisoner of love. He loves the beautiful Snow Queen (Nicole Tessier) but she prefers human children. He obtains them for her, but living in her frozen realm soon turns the children into numb automatons. Branner quickly establishes himself as a fine comic actor and accomplished physical comedian.
Kay (Michael Ng) is the Snow Queen's latest choice of consort. It is a smaller and less complex role but Ng plays well as a spunky, fearless kid capable of driving even the Snow Queen's giant guards to distraction.
Tony Pisculli (Fight Choreography) adds another facet to this keiki-friendly show with fight scenes in which one character or another gets kicked or poked in the butt. That action evoked gales of delighted laughter from the kids who attended a school performance on Wednesday.
There is a serious side to the story as well. Kay's young girl friend, Gerde (Maren Oom), follows him to the Snow Queen's domain carrying salt made from human tears -- the magic element that can free him. When Gerde is ensnared by the Goblin's magic Kay offers to stay with the Snow Queen forever if she is allowed to leave. The willingness of Kay and Gerde to sacrifice themselves to save the other ultimately awakens emotions long dormant in the supposedly heartless Snow Queen. Even the jealous Goblin comes out a winner!
Oom becomes an appealing heroine. Lisa D. Niemczura and Shawn Felipe display remarkable agility performing on stilts as the towering giants. Snow wolves Yhazi Graham and Funmilayo Hill move with predatory canine grace whether dancing upright or performing on their hands and knees.
Chet Toni (Scenic Design) establishes the ambiance of the Snow Queen's icy realm and sets the mood even before the show begins. Sandra Finney (Costume Design) draws on traditional European folk art, circus costumes, and the anthropomorphic designs of "Cats." Finney's goblin costume is particularly interesting. Scott Ishikawa (Puppet Design) adds a large Grandma figure (animated by Alissa Joy Lee) that helps define Kay and Gerde as children rather than adults.
Hunt uses the entire theatre as the performance area. This too enhances the entertainment value of this remarkable production.
The Snow Queen And The Goblin
When: Tomorrow and Dec. 9-12, 7 p.m., except Dec. 12 matinee, 2 p.m.
Where: University of Hawaii Kennedy Theatre
Cost: $10 general admission
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