Monday, May 21, 2018

"Snow Child" at Arena Stage

I saw "Snow Child" at Arena Stage Friday.   Mabel  and Jack are homesteaders from Pennsylvania, who up and moved to Alaska in the 1920's after losing a child. They are not handling their first Alaskan winter as homesteaders well. They build a small snow man, a snow child, and dress it in a hat and scarf. Later a young girl accompanied by a fox shows up. The others don't believe Mabel, but she reads the snow child legend and believes it has come true. Their neighbors help them out, but also wonder if it might be best if Mabel and Frank went back and then they could take over their claim. 
There is use of puppetry as the fox, the horse, and other animals make their appearances on stage.
The music is appropriately old American. The songs were both wonderful and odd. It reminded me a bit of "Come From Away", in the sense that the songs sounded a little like something you'd probably heard before around a campfire. 
The cast was great. The musical is inspired by the book by Eowyn Ivey, which I have not read.  There's use of a term Merriam Webster informs me is Chinook for newcomers. That and a passing reference to there being natives somewhere is about all you'll get for any sense that there might be a long history of people in Alaska. This story is all settler.
This came through for me (and I'm paraphrasing because I did not write this down mid-song) the neighbors sing a long about the land belonging to those who get there first. Which, wow. Yes, that's how homesteaders felt, I'm sure. But that is some manifest destiny type thinking their for the folks who showed up in the 1920's to call themselves first. 
The musical is still enjoyable but it does require ignoring all of that.