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a Holiday Musical
by Catherine Bush (words) and Dax Dupuy (music)

COMPANY : Actors Theatre of Atlanta [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Theatre in the Square [WEBSITE]
ID# 5196

SHOWING : December 07, 2017 - December 31, 2017



It’s December 23rd and Paddy Moran, a homeless man living in Central Park, befriends an orphan named Billy who has come to New York in order to keep a promise made to his mother: to build the best snowman ever. Before they go to sleep that night, Paddy reveals to the penniless Billy that his hat is an heirloom worth a small fortune. When Paddy wakes up the next morning, he discovers both Billy and his hat are gone. He reports the theft to Officer Jones, who is more interested in locking Paddy up for vagrancy. A social worker, Dot Blackwell, intervenes. Dot is in New York looking for Billy, who has run away from Florida. Paddy explains that a magic spell has been placed on the hat; every fifty years, on Christmas Eve, the owner of the hat is granted a “bit o’ magic and a wish.” This Christmas is the fiftieth year and Paddy wants to use the magic to get his estranged daughter back. Dot and Paddy agree to work together to find Billy and the hat. Meanwhile, Billy has tried to pawn the hat but to no avail. Suddenly it begins to snow. Billy builds a snowman and places the hat on its head, christening his new friend “Frosty.” Magically, Frosty comes to life and leads Billy on an adventure through the streets of New York. Officer Jones tries to arrest Frosty but Billy and Frosty elude him and run back into Central Park, where eventually Dot, Paddy, and Officer Jones catch up with them. Frosty agrees to give his hat back so Paddy can make his wish. At midnight Paddy wishes for a family and discovers that Billy is actually his grandson. They reunite and are able to bring Frosty back to life through the Christmas magic known as Love.

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NOT "Frosty the Snow Man"
by playgoer
Friday, December 15, 2017
Don’t expect to hear the classic holiday song "Frosty the Snow Man" in "Frosty!" the musical. Some elements of the song are included -- the coal eyes, the button nose, the magic hat, the dancing, the hollering cop -- but Catherine Bush has developed an original plot that adds some heart to the story of a snowman come to life. The songs, with music by Dax Dupuy, add to the show, but don’t overpower it. In Michael Vine’s delightful staging, only one number ends with a pose that demands applause. There’s just enough audience interaction to make the 70-minute runtime seem perfectly right.

N. Emil Thomas’ set design features an effective, if somewhat fantastical New York City skyline on the back wall, with the Statue of Liberty looming over skyscrapers. Six flats flank the stage, each painted fairly crudely with images or wording to add to the New York feel. A few platforms upstage center and a park bench down left round out the set, with a small fire and rolling pawn cart adding detail for a couple of scenes. Mr. Thomas’ light design lets everything be seen clearly.

Sound design is more problematic. Only two actors appear to be miked, and their amplification seems to fade over time. The electronic-sounding music track is played on loudspeakers whose volume often seems to be almost at the point of overwhelming the singers. At the performance I attended, crackles as if from microphones were heard at times when neither of the miked actors were onstage.

The entire cast of six take on multiple roles. Michael Vine’s costumes help greatly in helping to distinguish the roles, but Karine Simonis’ choreography also helps when mute actors portray wind and snow. Primarily, though, it’s the actors themselves who make each of their characters distinct and memorable.

Grace Haupert plays the central role of Billy, a young boy, and immediately captures the audience’s attention. Alexandra Karr, playing her social worker and, in flashback, her mother, drives the plot, as she searches in NYC for the runaway orphan Billy. Rodney Witherspoon II, as Frosty, keeps the action lively.

The other three actors excel in their multiple roles, while still impressing in their main one. Hayley Brown is great as by-the-book Officer Jones, but also garners great laughs as a Russian immigrant pawnbroker (and others). Patrick Croce has great stage presence and empathy as pushcart hotdog vendor Jack, but slips seamlessly into other roles. Cory Phelps commands the stage as homeless Irishman Paddy, but disappears into other characters in a heartbeat. Their various accents are great. They all have terrific singing voices too.

Music director Alejandro Gutierrez has honed the vocal performances to show the actors at their best, and overall director Michael Vine seems to have inspired them to sell this heartwarming story with charm, verve, and energy. I have never much cared for the song "Frosty the Snow Man." "Frosty!" is a different story, though. Its simple, effective plot and constant forward motion make it a delight for all audiences, young or old. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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