West Hartford’s Conard High School is the only school in Connecticut granted the rights to produce the Disney musical ‘Frozen’ this year.
By Ronni Newton
You may be reading for the arrival of springtime, but you will definitely be humming – or even singing at the top of your lungs – about wanting to build a snowman after watching Conard High School’s production of “Frozen,” which opened March 10.
And you’ll also be left smiling, and ready to “Let It Go.”
Just one high school in each state, plus one overseas school for military families, was chosen by the Educational Theatre Association, Disney Theatrical Group, and Music Theatre International to produce the award-winning musical “Frozen” – and and in September 2022 it was announced that West Hartford’s Conard High School was the winning school from Connecticut.
“It is really a dream come true for all of us, really an incredible opportunity,” Director and Co-Producer Hunter Parker said as the cast, pit orchestra, and crew prepared to take the stage in a free performance for seniors, which served as the final dress rehearsal before the show’s official opening. Parker, who is also the theater teacher at Conard, said more than 90 students are part of the production.
“It’s really a challenge to bring Disney magic to life on stage,” Parker said, but all of West Hartford should be so proud that Conard was chosen to produce the show, and that the team has put together such a professional quality production.
Indeed, from the moment that a young Anna (Delia Canarie) and young Elsa (Ailani Roach) appear on stage with Queen Iduna (Grace Dube), King Agnarr (Evan Danyliw), and singing and dancing townspeople, you will not believe the performers are all high school students. Actually there are also a few elementary school students, who take the stage to dance alongside Olaf.
By the fourth scene, the audience becomes mesmerized by the adult versions of Elsa (Kayla Resnisky) and Anna (Marlena Pegolo), Conard seniors and veterans of previous musicals who bring strong vocals and equally robust acting ability to seemingly flawless and professional-quality performances.
The cast also includes Hans (Benjamin Dollar), Kristoff (James Thibault), Bulda (Serina Garba), Pabbie (Connor Farrell), Weselton (Charlotte Willson), and Oaken (Marcel Cohen), all of whom contribute excellent singing and acting to the immersive Disney magic on stage.
The 28-member pit orchestra is entirely comprised of students as well.
“It’s the hardest score we have ever had,” Parker said, for the orchestra, conducted by Michael Wyatt, as well as for the singers, directed by Sam Eurich.
Marybeth Lavelle, who got involved in Conard’s performing arts program when her daughter, who graduated in 2016, was a student, designed and built all of the puppets. “I’m an oddities maker,” she said, noting that she had previously created a dragon for Conard’s 2014 production of “Shrek – The Musical.”
Lavelle said it took hundreds of hours over the course of four months to create the Olaf snowman puppet and reindeer Sven, played by and operated by Cat Boulton and Afaf Albur respectively.
“The biggest challenges were how to get Olaf to float, and Sven to have legs that work,” she said, and could be operated by 17-year-olds. There wasn’t a YouTube video she could watch for instructions, she added.
“It’s been a ton of fun and we’re so excited to see everyone’s hard work come to life,” said Marisa Barry, who is the other co-producer of “Frozen.”
“Hopefully they will leave feeling a little more love and magic in their hearts,” Parker said of those who come to see the show.
The good news/bad news is that the show is sold out for all six performances. However, Parker said, Conard has received permission to host a live-streaming of the performance on Saturday, March 18, at 7 p.m.
Below is a PDF listing the entire cast, crew, orchestra, and production team.
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