Wardrobe supervisor Meredith Scott spends her time overseeing the care and coordination of the 154 costumes and thousands of pieces – earrings, shoes, socks, all of it! – in the touring production of Disney’s Frozen, playing Altria Theater through October 22.
“We are a very cohesive team,” says Scott, who was born in Roanoke and grew up in Asheville, North Carolina. “Our days are very full.”
Scott is in charge of two assistants and up to fourteen local dressers in every city on the touring schedule. The dressers are responsible for two to four actors and all costume changes. When an actor is injured or dealing with illness at the last moment, Scott’s staff has to track down all the pieces for the swing who will be stepping into the role.
“You have to know the show and be able to make decisions very quickly. You only have four to six minutes to get someone in [a new wardrobe element],” she says.
Dressers work out of gondolas, big black boxes with curtain rods that hold costumes and pieces for the costumes. The only costume that is not housed on a hangar is the iconic ice dress that Elsa wears during the beloved song Let it Go.
“It’s very heavy and it has illusion mesh and is beaded. It lays in a nicely, lined bin where it lives,” Scott says.
Scott is just one of the women in a leadership role with the Frozen touring production, mirroring the message of strong and independent women from musical.
The show’s storyline about the connection and love between two sisters is important, she says. “I think Disney has been very smart in the last few years, moving away from a fairytale love story.”
The Tony-nominated musical is special, she adds. “It’s something about the show that brings a lot of little princesses to our audience. You see all these little girls dressed like Elsa, getting an introduction to live theatre.”
For anyone who hasn’t seen either Disney’s original animated film or the musical, here’s the scoop: Both tell the story of Princess Anna of Arendelle who teams up with Kristoff who sells ice, his reindeer Sven, and a lovable snowman named Olaf to find Anna’s sister Elsa, whose magical icy powers have become a liability to her. The film was inspired by The Snow Queen, a Danish fairy tale, by Hans Christian Anderson. The musical was inspired by the award-winning 2013 Disney film.
Let There Be Music with Faith Seetoo
The show’s music director, Faith Seetoo, loves the fact that the two protagonists in the production are two strong women. “We have a lot of women in our company in a position of authority,” says Seetoo, who grew up in a suburb of Los Angeles and has worked on four Disney productions. “It’s exciting to be in the show.”
Seetoo serves as the show’s main conductor and she takes that position very seriously. In each city, she is responsible for maintaining the musical integrity of the show and teaching newcomers to the orchestra.
She works very closely with the production’s stage manager Paige Grant. “We collaborate,” she says. “It’s a big responsibility, but I love what I am doing.”
She considers the orchestra to be a scene partner, advancing the story along using various musical themes.
Seetoo explains there were twelve new songs written for the stage production that aren’t in the film to help flush out the characters. One of her favorites is Dangerous to Dream, sung by Elsa. “Her character talks about what she wants and what she wants is a connection to her sister,” Seetoo says, noting the new songs are interwoven with hidden Mickey references. For example, you might hear one in the bridge to this new song.
Out of the seven songs from the film, her favorite is For the First Time in Forever sung by Princess Anna. “It has a lot of orchestration. It’s symphonic pop with classical influences and great hooks. It’s exciting to me because it melds the [styles],” says Seetoo who has a classical background in piano performance.
On her feet for almost the entire show, See-too has to warm up before each performance. “You have to treat yourself and take care of yourself as an athlete. I do have to be careful because you can get repetitive stress injuries,” she says.
She also has to physically embody the music. “I have to remind people what feeling we are going for,” she says.
Sue McLaughlin’s World of Puppets
When the opportunity to join the production of Frozen presented itself to Sue M. McLaughlin, key dresser/puppet supervisor, she jumped at the chance to work with production designer Michael Curry who also co-designed for The Lion King. McLaughlin worked on the Broadway production and was an original member of The Lion King national tour.
“I took care of Scar, the mechanical mask worn,” she says. “That is when I started taking care of puppets on Broadway and on tour.”
McLaughlin handles puppets for Sven and Olaf in the Frozen production. She was familiar with Curry’s style of puppetry and how they move and are worn, which was beneficial for her. “One of the big differences for Sven is that the performer is completely hidden, you don’t see him,” she says.
Olaf, on the other hand, is similar in that you see the performer behind the puppet. “The puppet helps elevate the magical element of Olaf,” she says.
During the show, McLaughlin helps get the performers dressed and into the puppets, which isn’t always an easy task. When the actor for Sven is in the puppet, he has limited vision and hearing. “You have to stay close to him,” she says.
Because the role is so strenuous, two performers take on the role of Sven (more about that in the Just Joan on Dan Plehal). “We have two Sven puppets and only one Olaf puppet,” she says. “We have to switch out the elements [of the puppet] to fit their bodies better.”
McLaughlin enjoys the challenge of repairing the fabrics and mechanical items that are not working right. “I tell actors you will feel something wrong before I see it,” she says. “It’s an investigation to find out what needs to be fixed. I love the problem solving.”
She is fascinated by the puppets because they are completely mechanical; there are no batteries and no electronics. “I am so enamored of the fact that the magic we bring and add to the show is completely performed and controlled by the performers,” she says. “I think that’s special.”
The puppets work with the performers to elevate the magical elements of Arendelle, she adds. “They are an integral part and being a small part of all of that is exciting. I love it.”
She’s also very proud that the creative theme of the show – female empowerment – is evident in every element of its production. “When I first went out on The Lion King, I was one of three female stagehands. Now to see the heads of departments – the female representation in every department, it’s amazing,” she says.
She really loves the story of Frozen, she adds. “It’s a story of sisters and finding your own voice and truth. There is a line in the finale that says ‘fill your world with light and love.’ That’s an important message right now.”
Frozen is showing now through October 22 at Altria Theater. For showtimes and tickets, visit BroadwayinRichmond.com.