Eastside Theater presents twists on 'Frozen' and 'Cinderella'
For most practical purposes, Eastside Theater Company would stick to one production rather than two to kick off its fall-to-spring season.
Trouble is, one show simply cannot contain the sheer number of kids who want to take part.
"We hate cutting kids from a production," says Alan Cohen, Eastside's board chairman. "We have a limited amount of time to do performances, so we try to make the most of it."
That means Eastside is presenting overlapping performances of Disney's "Frozen Jr." and "Cinderella: Or How Pipsqueak the Mouse Became a Stallion." There are 10 "Frozen Jr." shows between Nov. 8 and 17, and four "Cinderella" performances from Nov. 7 through 16.
Both shows will take place at Springwater Church, the Gresham-based theater company's designated performance and rehearsal space at 3445 S.E. Hillyard Road.
"We knew we would get a lot of new families with 'Frozen Jr.' and we did," Cohen says. "Having two productions allows us to cast a lot more people."
Based on the 2018 Broadway musical, "Frozen Jr." brings characters Elsa, Anna, and the magical land of Arendelle to life onstage while featuring the unforgettable songs from the wildly successful 2013 animated film "Frozen."
"Frozen Jr." expands on the emotional relationship and journey between Princesses Anna and Elsa. When faced with danger, the two discover their hidden potential and the powerful bond of sisterhood.
Inspired by the size and enthusiasm of audiences at DisneyLand in Southern California, Director Josh Johnson championed bringing "Frozen Jr." to Eastside Theater, making it the first in the Portland area to take it on.
"Getting to be the first in Metro area to produce "Frozen Jr." is exciting for ETC," says Artistic Director Liz Bertsch. "We have done our research to provide audiences with a good balance of elements from the Disney original film and stage productions with our own touch of ETC magic."
With a cast of 32 students between the ages of 5 and 18, rehearsals for the production started in late August.
"They rehearse a lot — four days a week," Cohen says. "There are many, many hours put into this show. There also are some pretty incredible special effects for the show."
The characters of Sven and Olaf are portrayed through puppetry, and the snow audiences will see falling is actual frozen precipitation.
"There will be real snow falling. It's gonna be pretty incredible, actually," Cohen says.
Described by Eastside as a "postmodern take on an old classic," "Cinderella: Or How Pipsqueak the Mouse Became a Stallion," features talking mouse Pipsqueak and his buddy Moose the mouse spinning a tale complete with dragons, witches, slapstick and a Prince Charming "who was almost Prince Dave." While everyone still gets to live happily ever after, you may never look at Cinderella the same again.
"It's a funny show," Cohen says. "It's not really about Cinderella, though she's in the show. It's basically about Pipsqueak the mouse and a fairy godmother who turned him into a horse ... it's told from that perspective. It's a very cute script and a funny script, basically a re-telling of a fairly tale from a completely different perspective than you're used to."
Director Brandy Nix agrees that this is an off-the-wall adaptation that truly works.
"Directing Pipsqueak has been a true pleasure and an enjoyable journey of discovery," she says. "Our cast of 28 students with varying levels of stage experience have come together to perform a re-telling of Cinderella full of unexpected comedy and surprises."
As part of Eastside's goal to increase its community involvement, those attending the productions are asked to bring non-perishable food items to donate to Gresham-based SnowCap Community Charities. Everyone who does receives a free order of popcorn for the show.
Also, a raffle sponsored by Gresham Ford and Riverview Community Bank qualifies participants to win prizes including an Apple iPad and AirPods, and an "NBA Experience" package including three tickets to the Friday, Nov. 29, Portland Trail Blazers basketball game against the Chicago Bulls at Portland's Moda Center.
"We have not done anything like this before," Cohen says, noting $2,000 has already been raised through advance raffle sales. "We hope to raise $5,000, with half of that going to SnowCap."
As Eastside enters its 22nd season, Cohen says the group has come a long way since starting as Corbett Children's Theater.
"Without community support, it would be tough doing what we've been doing. So we want to give back and make sure we support our community."
If You Go
Eastside Theater Company two-show season opener
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday through Sunday, Nov. 8-10 and Friday through Sunday Nov. 15-17; 1 p.m. Nov. 9 and 16, 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 10 and Sunday, Nov. 17.
When: 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 7 and 14; 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 9 and 16.
Where: Springwater Church, 3445 S.E. Hillyard Road, Gresham.
Tickets: $12 for adults; $9.50 for students and seniors; $2 more at the door.
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