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Disney exclusive: UHS one of 50 schools in the nation earning the rights to stage ‘Frozen’ musical

Things are currently on the frozen side at University High School, and Monday morning’s 20-degree temperatures didn’t have a thing to do with it.

Thank Anna, Elsa, Olaf, Kristoff, Hans, Sven and the misunderstood Marshmallow, for the new state of being.

UHS is one of 51 schools — one for each state in the U.S., plus another American high school in Germany for U.S. military families posted abroad — to stage the live musical version of “Frozen,” from the animated Disney movie of the same name.

“Yeah, this a big deal,” said Richard Kyer, who teaches English and theater at the school on Bakers Ridge Road.

So big a deal, in fact, that this will be the first time in the history of Broadway, and U.S. musical theater, that high school troupes will have the thespian opportunity to take on a show that is still touring nationally.

To earn that right, schools had to audition, as it were, through the Educational Theatre Association, Disney Theatrical Group and Musical Theatre International.

The above trio hosted the competition titled, “Frozen: Love is an Open Door.”

It’s all about the fostering of the arts, organizers said.

Reaching out to the community through creativity, along with getting underserved groups in school just plain interested in trodding the boards — or learning to rig the lighting for that dramatic monologue or show-stopping number.

Schools had to talk about all of the above, and what they do, related to the above in their applications.

Within the creative orbit of WVU, plus with a vibrant community theater scene, University High was an easy sell, Kyer said.

Easy, he said, and more important than ever.

“We live in such divisive times these days,” he said.

That’s why the arts couldn’t be more critical, he said — especially the kind put out by Disney.

After all, he said, who doesn’t love a Disney movie, with its slapstick coupled to reaching themes about identity and human potential that just might make you think — even as you’re whistling the main song days after.

Which is pretty evident in “Frozen,” with its freezes and thaws of family love, and nods to the heroic journey.

There’s that, plus the antics of Olaf, a nerdy snowman who eventually, finally, gets to play it cool after lots of comic pratfalls — and the help of a thermometer-motivated magic spell — along the way.  

Kyer presided over his school’s first rehearsal Monday night.

Right now, he said, the production is in its tentative days.

The cast has been set and read-throughs will commence through this month. Full-on rehearsals, with lighting and music, will begin in earnest after Christmas break.

In the meantime, students were hot for “Frozen,” he said.

“We had a lot of kids who auditioned,” he said. “More than what we normally do.”

UHS will debut the production in late March.

As a national and international touring production, “Frozen” couldn’t even be mired by COVID.

Well, it could, temporarily.

The musical premiered on Broadway in 2018 and packed houses for two years running, until the pandemic forced the klieg lights and marquees everywhere to dim.

Now, it’s back on tour, including shows on London’s West End.

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