Drag the kids out
The new musical “The Snow Queen” offers a uniquely funny night out for the family
By Carl Kozlowski 11/29/2012
If you’re looking for truly unique entertainment this holiday season, Steve Apostolina and Dale Sandlin have got the show for you.
They’ve co-written and produced the new musical “The Snow Queen,” loosely based on the fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, which offers “a tale of old love, new love, lost love, found love, devils, reindeer, magic mirrors and snowballs.”
Sounds great, but here’s the really creative part: The show is done in the style of English Panto, meaning that it injects the British vaudeville style known as “music hall” into the presentation of plays based on fairy tales and famous children’s stories. And that means that in addition to its having plenty of contemporary references and audience participation, its lead character and emcee is played by actor R. Christopher Sands in full-on drag costume.
But never fear, this is intended as fun for the whole family, as the story centers on the misadventures of Sands’ character, the Widow Twanky, and the children she cares for, Kai and Gerda, as they battle the evil Snow Queen and her bumbling forces of darkness. The battle begins when a magic mirror created by Lord Beelzebub, dark ruler of the underworld, is shattered, and Beelzebub kidnaps Kai, a magician, in order to put the mirror back together.
While Twanky, Kai’s girlfriend, Gerda, and a forgetful Highwayman team up to fight snowmen soldiers, reindeer, handmaidens and lovelorn demons, the audience is also regaled by the trio’s unstoppable and often ill-timed tendency to burst into song.
“I had performed in a couple of these 20 years ago with a British actor named B.J. Turner,” recalls Apostolina, who has a career as a voiceover actor. “He introduced me to the convention of this type of show. Dale had done a couple of shows with R. Christopher Sands, at holiday time with Sands in drag. That’s the genesis of how we started it.”
It was Apostolina’s wife, Karen, a former editor with Southland Publishing (owners of the Weekly) who suggested “The Snow Queen” as the story to adapt. The writers moved forward, not realizing they’d be competing against the panto play “A Snow White Christmas” staged by the Pasadena Playhouse. Apostolina notes that there are key differences between the two shows.
“We call ourselves a non-traditional panto, because the traditional form takes pop songs and changes the lyrics, and that’s what the Playhouse is doing,” says the Pasadena resident. “But we wanted original music, so I composed the songs and we’re singing them. We’re a world premiere musical in the panto style.”
“The Snow Queen is performed at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays through Dec. 23 at the Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave., South Pasadena. Tickets are $25 general, $20 for students and veterans. Call (626) 441-5977 or visit FremontCentreTheatre.com.