I’m neck deep into creating our new shadow show for a local event that is spectacular. A National Trust property called Anglesey Abbey, with beautiful gardens all around, opens the gardens at night and lights about a mile-a-half walk through the property with LEDs and projectors to create a magical winter night out for any who attend. Performers provide music, circus, and mime. We were contracted to make a shadow theatre show for the last several years, and it’s been a smashing success. Peter and the Wolf the first year, The Nutcracker Shadows the second… this year, the Snow Queen!
We chose the Snow Queen not so much for the seemingly undying craze for the Frozen bandwagon, but for the love of the original fairy tale itself. Fans of the Disney sing-a-long will find themselves hard pressed to recognize much of the dual-princess bonanza, except in the fact that there’s a reindeer, a melting tear, a snowy queen, and at least one little girl.
Not only did we have to read the story again for ourselves to remember the source material, we had to storyboard it down to a manageable chunk. But foremost in our minds as we set about choreographing a 100 page Danish classic into a 13(ish) minute shadow show for the whole family was… finding the music! Unlike our previous show selections, the Snow Queen has not been made into a full musical or ballet with a predetermined score. Not that we know of anyway. Instead, we had to go hunting!
Fortunately an early tip put us onto the trail of Jean Sibelius, a Finnish composer from the late Romantic, early Modern era. Our informer said, “He’s from about the right part of the world…” and happened to have 7 symphonies and 3 of the man’s shorter works on hand to loan us for a listen. What followed was a musical tour-de-force of Scandinavian mountains, lakes, winters, summers, fairies, dwarves, flowers, and fields.
Great! Compared to the bottomless musical pit of itunes and the internet, that narrowed the field significantly. But have you ever listened to 7 symphonies in a row, and had to select your favorite 20 parts that correspond to a pre-existing story line, but don’t exceed 15 minutes?
Neither have I.
But I got it down to 19:30 so far, and we’re close to making our final selections! It took almost two weeks of listening, notating, playing back, and reexamining to choose the various parts and fit them together. Now we just need to trim the fat, and let the characters leap to life.
Oh yeah. And make all the props…