In recent years, Patriot Players shows have been increasingly popular among children. Youngsters have been attending in droves, parents in tow, to see Disney favorites such as “The Little Mermaid” and “Beauty and the Beast.”
With the Patriot Players’ latest show, “Frozen Jr.,” the experience for kids goes beyond being entertained — to being entertainment.
“Frozen Jr.” is a shorter version of “Frozen,” made for a cast of young performers. Sixty-four children and teenagers, ages 5-18, perform in the 75-minute musical.
The show is about sisters Anna and Elsa, who lived long ago in the village of Arendale. These sisters are separated while young because of Elsa’s inability to control her power to freeze whatever is in her path, including people, is dangerous to Anna.
Being in a show with an all-kids cast is both fun “and stressful at the same time,” said Anna Locklear, who portrays Adult Elsa and has been in several Patriot Players shows.
Although she portrays one of the most popular lead characters of today, Locklear doesn’t seem too impressed.
“I like Anna way better than Elsa,” she said. “She seemed more fun. Elsa was very much overrated.”
“Frozen Jr.” is the second Patriot Players show for Tahliyah Hodge, who portrays Adult Anna and last was seen in the ensemble for “Beauty and the Beast.”
Unlike her co-star, Tahliyah has unbridled appreciation for the show and the character she plays.
“I like ‘Frozen,’ and when I tried out, I definitely wasn’t expecting Anna” to be her character, she said.
It is a challenge working with all children, Tahliyah said: “You have to be more patient.” Plus, in a kids’ show, there’s less time to rehearse, so she’s had to work hard with her role.
“It’s extremely exciting and at times overwhelming just due to the amount of children that there are,” Stage Manager Morgan Young said.
She has found the children to be excited, willing to learn and cooperative, she said.
“They’re way more willing” than adults to do what’s asked of them, she said.
The younger children give it their all and “come very prepared with their songs and music. The older kids lack that luster,” characteristic with the stereotypes of their age, she said.
Because they are working with so many kids with disparity in age, the staff runs a very tight ship with rules and procedures.
“We make sure to categorize everything based on age,” Young said.
The youngest kids, Group A, had usually one rehearsal a week. They play the Snowflakes who dance around when Elsa’s power is about to come loose.
Group B, older kids, have more action on stage and more rehearsals. Group C, the teenagers, have the most obligations.
Among those three groups are kids with additional responsibilities and stage time playing lead characters and being Snow Choir dancers.
Backstage, dressing areas are divided strictly by age group, and waiting areas for those not on stage are divided as well.
Throughout the rehearsals, different women have taken turns keeping an eye on all the kids but especially in keeping the youngest kids quiet and busy. Most evenings, that has meant giving them crayons and pages from coloring books.
When it’s getting time for the little kids to go on stage, they line up in the hall in two parallel lines with a strict rule: Touch the wall at all times. That keeps them neatly in place, two big rows of blue up and down both sides.
While on stage, kids are kept far back from the edge, which drops off into the orchestra pit. Still, there are measures in place in case anyone should fall off. The floor of the orchestra pit is covered in soft mats that, in turn, are covered in hundreds and hundreds of large foam blocks, to cushion any fall.
At the end of each rehearsal, children only are allowed to leave after their parents check them out, verified by Young.
Vanessa Triplett’s stepdaughter Kyleigh Triplett, 7, is in the cast.
“It’s been fun, and I could definitely tell that it’s helping her,” she said. “She used to be really shy,” but she’s been bolder and more interactive while in the show.
Learning her parts was easy, Triplett said, because “I think she already basically know the songs with the movie.”
The ways the Patriot Players staff are working with and keeping up with all those kids “is very organized. I don’t know how they do it,” Triplett added.
Kimberly Everheart is the director; Shauna Hines is the technical director; Linda Via is the music director; Emma Weatherly is the resident designer and Jane Leizer is the choreographer. Devin Pendleton is the artistic director of the Patriot Players.
Holly Kozelsky is a writer for the Martinsville Bulletin; contact her at 276-638-8801 ext. 243.