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"Frozen Jr." opens Friday night at the Rhode Center for the Arts

"Frozen Jr." opens Friday night at the Rhode Center for the Arts

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In September of 2018, Jodi Diderrich directed her first stage show, “Shrek the Musical Jr.”

For that Lakeside Players production, Diderrich — an English as a second language teacher at Gateway Technical College — directed a cast of 26 children.

It was so much fun, she’s back at the Rhode Center for the Arts and directing “Frozen the Musical Jr.” (You could say she wasn’t ready to let it go when it comes to directing.)

The show, an adaptation of the hit 2013 Disney animated film — featuring the Oscar-winning tune “Let It Go” that took over the world for a while — opens its two-weekend run Friday night.

It’s also the opening show for the Lakeside Players’ season.

This year’s cast “has 33 children, ranging from age 6 to teenagers,” Diderrich said. “It keeps getting bigger and bigger.”

After overseeing the “Shrek” show, Diderrich said, “I had such a great time, I decided to do another one. The kids are fabulous; I always have a good time with the kids.”

When asked if the young cast members are also having fun, Diderrich laughed, saying, “I hope they are having fun. They sometimes maybe have too much running around during rehearsal, so that means they’re having a good time.”

Unlike millions of people around the world, Diderrich has never seen the “Frozen” film, which earned some $1.2 billion in worldwide box office revenue and took home the Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film.

Diderrich read the script for the stage adaptation and decided “I can do this,” she said.

Like the film, the stage show tells the story of princesses Elsa and Anna and the magical land of Arendelle.

The show features all of the memorable songs from the animated film, with music and lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, plus five new songs written for the Broadway production.

“Frozen” was inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale “The Snow Queen.” When Elsa discovers her powers to control the weather can be dangerous, she leaves her home. Her sister, Anna, sets off to find her sister with the help of an ice harvester named Kristoff and his reindeer, Sven. Other characters include the scene-stealing snowman Olaf and Prince Hans, who Anna falls in love with at first sight.

“I like the message of the story that love at first sight is not always the best idea,” Diderrich said. “It’s really about sisterly love between Elsa and Anna.”

While Diderrich is waiting until after the production to see the movie — “I’d like to put my own spin on it” — the kids in the cast “give me some hints about how things are done in the film,” she said.

The local cast has a female Olaf, played by Lilly Johnson who, Diderrich said, “is doing a fabulous job with that character, adding her own personality.”

The stage version is not exactly the same as the movie, and Diderrich said kids “can come to the show and hear the message, which is so good. They can talk about it with their parents after the show.”

Also after each show, cast members will be available to talk with children and take photos with Elsa, or any of the characters, on her ice throne.

Diderrich is quick to thank the show’s choreographer, Joana Jackson, the music director, Bryan Chung, and his wife, Chynna, who is the assistant director.

As opening night approaches, Diderrich, who was busy painting the set when we talked Tuesday afternoon, said there’s always “one more thing” to do before the show debuts.

“We have a great bunch of parents helping out too, making costumes and helping build the sets. It’s really nice to have all that support.”

And when the curtain rises Friday evening, Diderrich will “let it go” and enjoy the show.

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