At a time when the topic of religion threatens to overshadow the celebratory nature of something as simple as a retailer’s red “holiday” cups, not to mention its role in more serious matters, it’s especially nice to enjoy a production like Portland Stage Company’s “The Snow Queen” and its contention that the redemptive power of love can thaw the most frozen of hearts.

The theater is staging its third iteration of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale, a collection of seven stories that has warm-hearted Gerda (Britian Seibert) determined to make the trek to free her childhood friend Kai (Ian Carlsen) from the icy grip of the Snow Queen’s castle. Gerda must brave a series of obstacles without Kai’s help. Mesmerized by a shard of magic mirror in his eye, he doesn’t remember her or their love and doesn’t seem to care.

Despite Disney’s many liberties in its own rendition of Andersen’s tale for its mega-hit “Frozen,” even young children will recognize the essential elements – the force of ice, the moxie of love and the steady doses of humor.

Portland Stage has taken its own liberties, too, with its ingenious use of Emily Dickinson’s poems as lyrics to melodies written by composer and music director Hans Indigo Spencer. You don’t even have to know that artistic director (and this show’s director and set designer) Anita Stewart dreamed this up knowing that Dickinson and Andersen had much in common, working, both quite solitary, around the same time in very different parts of the world, to appreciate how much the songs foster these seven, sometimes odd stories.

The theater has left little to chance for this all-ages musical by tapping talented actors and singers. Daniel Noel, who does double duty as the endearing reindeer Ba, comes through with his warm, booming voice as our narrator. It’s no small feat to tell so many stories, one after the other, and keep your audience captivated, but Noel seems to be delighted in these tales himself.

Gerda takes the audience along on her adventures, and Seibert gives the character passion, trustworthiness and guilelessness that are fetching without seeming simple or naive.

A fairy tale built on a series, of course, also has a cast of characters with their own set of quirks and the production has many to keep children and adults laughing and leaning forward. J.P. Guimont’s winning crow, in particular, may not have had quite enough – caw! – lines.

Portland Stage’s “The Snow Queen” is a near-mystical production, employing screens and using light and shadow at least as much as physical props.

It comes along at a time of year when we crave warmth, the promise of flowers and any evidence of the possibilities of love.

Daphne Howland is a freelance writer based in Portland.

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