Winter is upon us and this year the cold air has brought a classic fairytale to warm the hearts of theatergoers.

Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen” returns to Portland Stage. And, it’s as magical and unique as a finely wrought snowflake.

Like the theater’s ever-popular rendition of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” “The Snow Queen is a whirlwind story, told primarily through narration. The narration comes from the storyteller (Daniel Noel), the core cast and an ensemble of 11 young actors (Two ensembles, White and Blue, perform on a rotating schedule throughout the production’s run). Often, all 17 cast members are telling the story in tandem or in unison.

The production doesn’t require an elaborate set to dazzle patrons. In true fairytale fashion, every flower, bush, bird, animal and snowflake has a personality. And a cast member brings each vividly to the stage.

It’s a world where preening flowers talk, snowflakes are fierce guards for a frosty queen, a crow can recite Shakespeare and a big-hearted reindeer can undertake a valiant journey to help a brave girl save her best friend from the evil queen.

Shadow puppets, semitransparent curtains and echoing sound effects add to the otherworldliness of the production.

The story is broken into seven chapters, with three in the first act and four in the second. Noel serves as the audience’s animated guide on the enchanting journey, as well as doubling as a lovable reindeer named Ba.

Along with Noel the core cast features Patricia Buckley (Snow Queen), Richard Dent IV (Kai), Courtney Moors (Inventor’s Assistant/Princess/Robber Girl), Lauren Orkus (Gerda) and Steven Strafford (Inventor/Crow).

Buckley is frigid as the Snow Queen, completely devoid of emotion and compassion. And, her glistening silver-trimmed gown, headdress and furs are both mesmerizing and bone-chilling to behold.

The Snow Queen’s icy heart is made even more pronounced when contrasted with Buckley’s other minor roles. She is particularly warm and fun as the Snow Queen’s antithesis, the Queen of Summer.

Orkus is the heart of the story as Gerda, the little girl in search of her missing friend, Kai, who’s portrayed with a childlike quality by Dent. Orkus brings innocence, courage and unfaltering belief to her role.

Dent is also thoroughly entertaining as the tongue-tied suitors to the Princess, played by Moors, who is vivacious in all three of her roles. Her characters are memorable and guaranteed to bring a smile.

Strafford rounds out the core cast, as the Igor-like inventor and a loquacious crow. He’s a real holiday treat, with scene-stealing, cartoon-like character portrayals and rich-voiced vocal performances.

Both Orkus and Dent act with younger versions of themselves during the production. Friday night’s performance featured the White ensemble, with fifth-grader Ruby Peterman as young Gerda and 7-year-old Antonio Luc Hernandez stealing hearts as young Kai.

“The Snow Queen” is an inventive, charming production for all ages. It’s a parable that brings out the magic of the holiday season, while teaching a valuable lesson.

April Boyle is a freelance writer from Casco. She can be contacted at:

[email protected]

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