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'Frozen Jr.' is the coolest thing at LI theaters and camps

Based on the 2018 Broadway musical, The Gateway Playhouse in Bellport is presenting "Frozen Jr." and they gave a backstage tour on July 27. (Credit: Newsday / Steve Pfost)

"Let it go, let it go," is ringing out all over the Island right now, as several area camps and children's theaters beat the heat by staging "Frozen Jr."   

Rights to the young people's version of the hit musical "Frozen" were released in January and the response has been crazy, says David Scott, director of licensing for the Disney Theatrical Group. "In the first six months, there have been nearly 1,600 productions," he says. "The enthusiasm for 'Frozen' is so great because the kids get to interact with these characters and songs they love so much."

The campers at Usdan, the arts camp in Wheatley Heights, were "over the moon" when they heard we were doing the show, says Jim Incorvaia, chairman of the theater department. The camp did two productions of the show late last month as part of a full schedule of musicals that included "The Drowsy Chaperone" and "Singin' in the Rain." It's a good balance to some of the less well-known shows, says Incorvaia, plus, "it has good, strong female characters." 

James Street Players will do five performances of "Frozen Jr." Friday through Sunday and camp productions are also happening at Theatre Three in Port Jefferson Monday and Tuesday and SoLuna Studio in Hauppauge starting Aug. 9. "There are certain shows that will sell out musical theater summer camps," says Sari Feldman, who's directing the show at Theatre Three. "Frozen Jr.," which she describes as a "fantastic phenomenon," is certainly one of them. "Like any big Disney show that comes out, it's the newest, biggest thing . . . and these children have grown up with it, so they know these characters inside and out."

THE BROADWAY CONNECTION

Doing a show that's still on Broadway only adds to the excitement, says Michael Mastroddi, who is directing a production at Gateway in Bellport. More than 300 children auditioned for Gateway's summer season, which included "Aladdin" and the mainstage production of "The Sound of Music." It's very competitive, says Mastroddi, "especially for young performers because there's not a lot of opportunites for them to work in such a professional environment."

The Gateway edition has more bells and whistles than some of the others, making use of the theater's projection system to achieve that dramatic scene when everything turns to ice. Others get charmingly creative with the technical demands of the show, using costumes and simple scenery changes to create the varied environments the piece calls for (think tiny dancers twirling blue and silver ribbons).

AN EXTRA SET OF DISNEY PRINCESSES

Of course, many of the young women auditioning have their sights set on the two sisters, Elsa and Anna, and Disney has obliged by adding a "middle Elsa and Anna" to the junior version. That still leaves a lot of unhappy hopefuls, but every director stresses that the disappointment is short-lived. "We have to try to get past the disappointment . . . so we can beome a cohesive unit and work as a cast," says Feldman.

Those who do get the parts are living the dream. Madison Beehner, 15, of East Islip, who plays Elsa at Gateway, remembers being 9 or 10 and melting when she saw "Frozen." She'd been studying dance, but "when the movie came out, I decided I wanted to sing." So in a sense, she says, " 'Frozen' is really the reason I decided to do theater."

She is especially moved by singing "Let It Go," which she describes as "amazing and empowering . . . when the movie came out, I would sing it around the house. Now I get to sing it in a professional production."

"Frozen Jr." is a hot ticket. Here's are current productions, along with upcoming shows.

Theatre Three

WHEN | WHERE 4 and 7 p.m. Monday-Tuesday, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson

INFO $12; 631-928-9100, theatrethreetickets.com

The Gateway

WHEN | WHERE Aug. 9-24, 215 S. Country Rd., Bellport

INFO $15-$25; 631-286-1133, thegateway.org

COMING SOON

CM Performing Arts Center

WHEN | WHERE Nov. 30-Dec. 26, 931 Montauk Hwy., Oakdale

INFO $12-$15; 631-218-2810, cmpac.com

The John W. Engeman Theater

WHEN | WHERE Jan. 25-March 1, 250 Main St., Northport

INFO $15; 631-261-2900, engemantheater.com


Have a child who wants to give "Frozen Jr." a shot? Two local groups plan to do the show in the fall.

Stagelight Academy

Children in grades K-4 can participate in this production, which will rehearse on Wednesday and Thursdays at Studio Theatre, 141 S. Wellwood Ave., Lindenhurst. Performances are Nov. 15-17. For more information, go to stagelightacademy.com

TACSY

The junior company of the youth theater at the Suffolk Y JCC, grades 1-6, will do the show on Dec. 14-15. Auditions are at the Y at 74 Hauppauge Rd., Commack, on Sept. 8. Rehearsals are on Sunday afternoons. For more information, call 631-462-9800, ext. 136 or visit syjcc.org.

—BARBARA SCHULER

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